Since film first passed through a camera, there has always been sex, eroticism, titillation, whatever you want to call it within cinema. Right before the golden age of theatrical porn in the early 70's, there was a breakthrough wave of sex-concerned films from Europe (mainly Germany and Sweden) that landed on US shores and found their way into respectable, or semi-respectable, US theaters. You had controversial films, some comedic, some with a pseudo-documentary slant, some straight arthouse serious, like I Am Curious- Yellow, Schoolgirl Report, Helga, I, A Woman, and Quiet Days in Clichy. 1973's Anita: The Shocking Account of a Young Nymphomaniac belongs in that cannon. A quick glance at director Torgnay Wickman's imdb page reveals what I assume are like-minded titles, such as, Eva: Diary of a Half-Virgin, The Lustful Vicar, and More about the Language of Love.
Anita (Christina Lindberg) just cannot help it. She is a teen with a craving for sex that is so obsessive she will bed just about anyone, anywhere. Her predilection has gotten so bad and outright that her reputation is soured and she has taken to picking up random strangers at the local train station. Making matters worse, she doesn't even really enjoy sex, and ends up loathing herself and those that would sleep with her. Yet, the compulsion remains.
The film's curious structure has the first half told predominantly in flashback. A bruise-faced Anita recounts various seedy hookups and failed relationships to Erik (Stellan Skarsgard), a young musician and psychology student who literally bumps into her one day after she had a tryst with a man at a construction site. Erik is fascinated by her and sets out to help her conquer her lustful malaise.
Despite Anita's seemingly overt exploitative mission, it isn't as tawdry as one might think. While the groin-tickling scenes are frequent, they are never gratuitous or leering. Overall the film has a staid approach and never feels like a spunk house exercise. Unfortunate, Anita strains for an artful vibe but fails at artful intelligence and method. The psychology is downright laughable, for instance, Erik thinks she just needs to experience a solo orgasm and she'll be okay. The desire for kink leads to questionable scenes like Anita's striptease at her parents dinner party, which her mother hilariously dismisses, saying, "Its not as bad as it looks," while her teenage daughter disrobes in front of a bunch of guests. The film is also technically clumsy, with limited camera setups and amateurish continuity errors. This is the kind of film that actually would have benifitted more by at least recognizing it's dumbed down storyline and, barring fixing the script, it should have aimed straight for the sleaze and exploitation angle more.
Where the film is winning is within its two leads. While I may have seen him before, I didn't latch onto Stellan Skarsgard until I saw him in Breaking the Waves, and I've been a fan ever since. While Erik isnt the deepest role, it is really neat to see Skarsgard in a very early role, young, skinny, and pale as death. But, the real charm is in 70's cult icon, Lindberg. Christina is quite simply, everything you want in a fresh-faced, sexual film icon. A petite but well-endowed body, a truly doll like face and soft, delicate features. But beyond just the looks, she has a real presence, and Anita certainly shows some range beyond her most well-known role as the the mute revenger in
Thriller: A Cruel Picture.
The DVD: Impulse.
Lindberg devotee Jeremy Slate over in the DVDManiacs forums points out that there is a slightly longer cut (one shot actually) of Anita floating around out there. The missing scene/shot pertains to the ending and is spoiler-y, so beware before you click on the link.
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. Here we have a case of a transfer that is technically solid but source-wise a total nightmare. Really, barring a full scale restoration this is probably the best you are going to get. There is age wear and tear aplenty. Marks of time have not been kind and there is heavy grain, muddled color and contrast, with specks, flecks, and spots throughout.
Sound: Swedish Mono with optional English subtitles. Again, its all source related, so you get the limitations of the era and some hiss and warble. Subs are fine, well-timed, and appear to be well-translated.
Conclusion: Probably best reserved for Christina Linbderg's cult of fans, Anita is presented rough in terms of image and audio quality (which is acceptable) and totally devoid of extras (which is disappointing). A buy for those with a Maid in Sweden or The Swinging Co-eds poster on their wall, but for everyone else it is best left as a rental.