Reviews & Commentary

Exposed (1971)

Also known as
Exponerad, Diary of a Rape, The Depraved
Tony Forsberg, Gustav Wiklund
Gustav Wiklund
Christina Lindberg, Heinz Hopf, Björn Adelly, Janne "Loffe" Carlsson

Christina Lindberg first made a name for herself in her native Sweden as a nude model, and parlayed that notoriety into an acting career that included a starring turn in the seminal Swedish exploitation film, Thriller – En grym film, and quite a bit of soft porn.

In Exposed, Lindberg plays seventeen-year-old Lena, who cheats on her ineffectual boyfriend Jan (Björn Adelly) with sleazy Helge (Heinz Hopf, whom you might remember as the heroin-pushing pimp from Thriller). When she tells Jan about the affair, he slaps her and she sets out on a short road trip where she encounters a nudist couple (Janne “Loffe” Carlsson, who was a well-regarded jazz drummer in the 60s and host of the Swedish version of Candid Camera in the 90s, and Birgitta Molin). The nudists are nice people and they spend a couple of quite idyllic days in the country, before Jan comes to take Lena back to the city. Once there Helge apparently tries to blackmail her back by threatening to expose the nude pictures he’s taken of her, and she vacillates between Jan’s safe, boring love and Helge’s exciting sadism. Throughout the film are interweaved flashes to Lena’s fantasies, which come ever more intertwined with reality.

Whenever I view something for review, I’m looking for an “in” — some aspect or aspects of the text I can write 500 at least half-way interesting words about. Often this “in” is the disconnect between what I expect a work to be and what it actually is. In fact, I think critique is in large part an exercise in comparing reality to the reviewer’s expectations, and I suspect the works I like most are those that surprise me. In the case of Exposed, I was expecting a cheesy, soft-core exploitation flick, but instead I got something much more perplexing — and interesting.

Exposed is aware of Lindberg’s sexpot image, and while director Wiklund exploits that image, and Lindberg’s body, he also subverts it, exploring the dysfunctions underlying it. This is a film about a broken girl with a tenuous grip on reality, who isn’t sure which she prefers: the safe, normal world of Jan, or the exciting, dangerous world of Helge. Wiklund and co-writer Forsberg make no real attempt at explaining Lena or her relationship to men and to sex, instead letting her dysfunctions play out in a mix of reality and fantasy, showing her increasing desensitization and distance from reality.

Lena is the perfect role for Lindberg’s expressionless, stone-faced acting. She is a girl who “knows too much, and feels too little,” and keeps turning to her fantasies to look for some, any emotion. Of course, it’s a film — none of it is real. There’s no reason to treat Lena’s fantasies as any less real than her “reality”, and Exposed tries to explore this, too.

There is something like an inertia to our suspension of disbelief when watching a film; we can keep accepting a filmic reality even after it contradicts itself. This is explored briefly at the end of The Wizard of Oz: Oz is exposed as a fraud, but he still has the power to help Dorothy and her friends; the previous reality has an ontological inertia and keeps working though it’s contradicted. Lena’s relationship to reality shares that “ontological utilitarianism”: at one point, she and Jan are discussing the nude pictures Helge has just returned to her:

“Why did you let him take the photos?” asks Jan.
“Because it was fun.”
“But I thought you said he hit you? Were you lying?”
“No, but that was yesterday.”
“And today?”
“Today I have the photos.”

To Lena, and by extension the film, the line between fantasy and reality becomes ever more blurry, and reality becomes whatever works in the moment. In the end, she apparently happily returns to Jan while fantasising about returning to Helge.

The plot meanders a bit and the acting is of variable quality, but its attempt at a complex relationship to reality and fantasy, while not wholly successful (I wish its reality had been much more ambiguous), gives Exposed hints of an intriguing, almost Lynchian depth beneath its exploitation exterior. In a way, it can be seen as a companion piece to Thriller, which also complicates genre expectations, but does it much less subtly. While Exposed isn’t nearly as transgressive as Thriller, it is still a pretty interesting viewing experience.

Written by Kalle on Friday March 26, 2010
Permalink - Category: Film - Tags: 1970s, christina-lindberg

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