Monday, 24 August 2009

Exposed (1971)

Exposed (Exponerad) was one of the movies that launched Christina Lindberg as a major star of exploitation and softcore erotic movies. But this was 1971, when the line between porn and art had become very blurred, and Exposed tries to be both. And it succeeds surprisingly well.

Director Gustav Wiklund was an actor who had been trying unsuccessfully for quite some time to get his first break as a film director. By 1971 he’d come to the conclusion that the only way to do this was by making a softcore sex film, such movies being a highly profitable sector of the Swedish film industry at that time. The great advantage of such movies (and of the American sexploitation movies that had boomed in the preceding decade) was that as long as you included the requisite quantities of sex and nudity you could do pretty much what you wanted to do. In that respect they resembled the Hollywood B-movies of the 40s which also offered (provided you had the talent) more artistic freedom than mainstream movies.

What Wiklund clearly wanted to make was an arty psychological m
ystery thriller, and that’s basically what Exposed is. And it’s a pretty good one. Lena (Christina Lindberg) is a Swedish teenager who’s become involved with a slighty unsavoury older man named Helge. Helge takes nude photos of her, which she has no objections to at the time although later he threatens to blackmail her with them. Helge’s parties are fairly wild and involve a good deal of promiscuous sex, which again Lena is quite happy about. Her boyfriend Jan is not quite so pleased.

Growing tired of the demands of bot
h men Lea hits the road, and while hitchhiking is picked up by an uninhibited couple. She takes them to Jan’s cottage in the country, which causes her more problems when Jan turns up to find them all lying about naked.

This is one of those movies where it is clear that not everything we are seeing is happening at the time we see it, and some of the events may not have happened at all. We see events through Lena’s eyes, and she’s something of an unreliable narrator. These kinds of movies can be annoying and frustrating but this one isn’t, mainly because it’s obvious right fro
m the start that we can’t accept everything we see at face value. Whether we’re seeing Lena’s memories or the products of her imagination is something that remains enigmatic.

What makes Exposed more interesting is that it doesn’t have clear-cut villains. Even Helge is not a mere stock villain or monster, and the exact nature of his feelings for Lena remains uncertain. Perhaps he loves her. Perhaps she loves him. There are many different kinds of lo
ve, and not all of them are necessarily healthy. The sexual games she plays with Helge belong to the same ambiguous category - she is certainly a willing partner, but that doesn’t mean these games are good for her. It also doesn’t mean they’re necessarily bad for her either. Her own sexuality is something she’s in the process of exploring and she intends to follow this path of exploration even if it leads to some dark places. How much of this exploration takes place in her own mind and how much takes place in objective reality are open questions.

The film is helped by generally s
trong acting performances. Heinz Hopf is excellent as Helge, slightly creepy but never going overboard. Christina Lindberg may not be the world’s greatest actress but she’s certainly competent, and she has the presence that is even more important in the world of exploitation movies. She is extremely good at projecting a mix of innocence and depravity, of vulnerability and strength. She’s also very likeable so although her behaviour isn’t always wise we never lose sympathy for her. Lindberg is a suprisingly subtle actress who never seems to be doing much acting and yet she generally manages to make us believe in the characters she plays, however unlikely they may be.

Combining art and erotica can be a difficult balancing act, but this film has enough to satisfy both grind-house and art-house fans. The former will be pleased by the amount of time Ms Lindberg spends naked while the latter should find enough psychological and existential puzzles to keep them satisfied as well. Wiklund’s direction is workmanlike but effective and the movie is never in danger of becoming boring.

The Region 2 DVD release from Revelation Films shows quite a bit of print damage and the colours are a little washed out at times. On the other hand it’s very cheap, being included in a three-movie set of Christina Lindberg’s films. Exposed is an effective blend of classy erotica and art, and it’s entertaining as well. Recommended.

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