Thaïs is the only surviving film from the Italian Futurist movement, and as such has a special importance in the history of cinema. In truth, the film’s virtues lie mostly in its set design rather than the drama or acting, but it is definitely to painter and designer Enrico Prampolini’s credit. Thaïs’ elaborately designed house, filled with secret doors and corridors of indeterminable perspective, is a nightmarish labyrinth of bold geometric shapes, predicting and provoking her eventual downfall. At parts of the film, steam is seen to emerge from holes in the wall. Adding to the phantasmagoria is the yellow tint of the print, which lends the images an almost electric vibrancy. Though its story is instantly forgettable, Thaïs should nonetheless be seen alongside The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and A Crazy Page, as a reminder that visual ingenuity is as old as the cinematograph itself.
Friday, 9 April 2010
Vera Preobrajenska is a beautiful countess from an unnamed Slavic land. Taking on the pseudonym Thaïs, the name of an ancient Egyptian courtesan, she makes a game of seducing married men, never once considering their emotions or ever her own. Thaïs is frequently seen surrounded by her admirers, but becomes so dependent on their attention that she is saddened greatly by their departure. Encouraged by positive responses from her various suitors, she takes it upon herself to pursue her best friend’s husband, but the newfound feeling of guilt, added to the suffocating extravagances of her ornate house, prove too much for Thaïs to handle.