Earth Spirit



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Asta Nielsen starred in a film adaptation of Wedekind’s tragedy before the now better-known Pabst version with Louise Brooks (Pandora’s Box). Nielsen incarnated the femme fatale but in a manner completely different (if more menacing) than that of Brooks. The great theorist Béla Balázs wrote of this film in a 1923 article titled “Asta Nielsen’s Eroticism”: “Nielsen’s gestures, the wealth of her mimic expressions, is fascinating.The extraordinary artistic standard of Asta Nielsen’s eroticism stems from its absolute intellectual quality. It is the eyes, not the flesh, that are of most importance.This spiritualized eroticism is dangerously demoniacal as it comes through all clothing.” The director, Leopold Jessner, was a pioneer of expressionist theater and imposed a style on this tragedy that brought it close to the claustrophobic neighborhood of Caligari, while exploiting its implicit voyeurism.

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