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Flesh and the devil (1927), directed by Clarence Brown and starring the Swedish actress Greta Garbo, is one of the most captivating portraits of love passions and treasons offered by Hollywood during its silent film period. Its exaltation of the passion of the so called amour fou, beyond any rule or social and moral conviction, moved the surrealists of the time, including Luis Buñuel. Based on a fin du siècle novel of the German Herman Sudermann, and set in the Central European aristocratic environment, the author did not get to see it finalized, as he passed away in 1928. Garbo played a devastating femme fatale, stylized by an elegance that put her beyond carnal eroticism. In an even bigger paradox, her name in fiction was Felicitas, and years later she would confirm that she played Felicitas "with every muscle of my body", in anticipation to the drama technique of the Actor's Studio after World War II. It might have helped her that at that time she was the lover of the director John Gilbert, who shared the cast and dressed her love scenes with a torrential reality. The publicity of the time cunningly assured that the film offered the first "horizontal" love scenes in the history of cinema, and as a matter of fact, in two famous moments the tape by Clarence Brown reinvented with the starring couple the kiss technique in front of the camera. The independence in the private life of the actress -she refused to get married regardless of the interested pressure of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer- and the haughty dignity of her roles in the screen made equally admired by men and women, who saw in her an envied model of autonomy and personal liberation.

Román Gubern

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