Ken Russell, the enfant terrible of British erotic cinema, just happened to be in Cannes for the MIP-TV market in April 1993. And he just happened to see the one-minute video spots running daily at the stand where Regina Ziegler was promoting her new Erotic Tales series. The director of the scandalous Women In Love (1969), adapted from D.H. Lawrence, and the visually exciting The Devils (1971), his version of Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudun, had just finished another Lawrence production: Lady Chatterly - so he simply offered his services. “I think I can have a script ready for you in a couple weeks. I’m directing a play in Bonn, so why don’t we meet again there?” In between rehearsals, over lunch at an Italian restaurant, Ken told Regina about the story of the breast pump…
The Insatiable Mrs. Kirsch is an erotic tale cut from real life. Conceived by Hetty Baynes, Ken Russell’s actress wife, “it’s about sounds - rather what people think things sound like.” Take a breast pump for drawing milk, for instance - it sounds just like a vibrator! Now put the stray notion of a vibrator - running all the time behind a closed door in a hotel room - into the imagination of a fascinated pulp-fiction writer, and you have a male’s fantasy on the run: Just what kind of woman is this?!
A couple of months later, Russell was shooting on the picturesque Dorset coast at an exclusive hotel near Swanage, nearby an ancient relic that’s a tourist attraction. Hetty Baynes plays Mrs. Kirsch, Simon Shepherd the distraught, distracted writer. “Delightful kitsch!” wrote a critic. “A big tease!” enthused a festival-goer in Denver. Vintage Ken Russell.
The woman, in her thirties, stands gazing out to sea. The man, a rather studious type, lounges on the grass and finds the woman fascinating. The woman passes closely by without a glance in his direction. He follows her.
In the hotel dining room the man watches the woman nibbling a corn on the cob dripping with butter. A smile of satisfaction plays around the corner of her mouth. Before she has finished, "Mrs. Kirsch" is paged to come to reception. At least he knows her name.
At breakfast the following morning our man watches her toying with a sausage. The hotel porter approaches her with a bulky envelope. When she splits it open a dozen polaroids cascade across the table and she hurries with the picture from the restaurant. The man follows her to her room and listens at the door. He hears the distinct sound of a buzzing vibrator. He can't stop following her. He is always close behind wearing some pathetic disguise. Wherever he goes, he hears the vibrator sound in the distance. She devours cream cakes, goes to the cinema alone in the afternoon to watch "Sex, Lies and Videotape " A most intriguingly insatiable woman...
Back at the hotel that evening, he gathers courage to make contact and asks the waiter to deliver a bottle of e champagne and a note to her table. The waiter brings him a note from Mrs. Kirsch. She invites him for a drink in her room. She orders drinks from room service - our man dares to order a kirsch. But before the order arrives, she dashes off to the bathroom. That noise again! She returns, completely in control. Our man simply must act. He lunges for Mrs. Kirsch and confesses his obsession - he has heard the noise, the buzzing noise... Mrs. Kirsch reveals all...
A woman in her thirties stands gazing at the sea. A man is watching her. She leaves without even glancing at him. He follows her nevertheless. In the hotel dining room the man watches the woman lasciviously nibbling on a corn cob dripping with butter. A smile plays about her lips. Before she had finished, a "Mrs. Kirsch" was paged to come to reception. At least now he knows her name.
At the following morning the man watches the object of his curiosity having breakfast. The hotel page approaches her with a thick envelope. As she opens it about a dozen Polaroid photos pour out to the floor. She hastily collects them and leaves the restaurant. The man follows her to her room listens at the door and hears a humming noise. Could it be a vibrator? He starts to follow her around compulsively. Wherever she goes the sound of the vibrator is close behind. She devours a cream pie, goes to the movies by herself in the afternoon to watch “Sex, Lies and Videotape”. She seems insatiable. Back at the hotel he gathers all his courage…
Hetty Baynes, Simon Shepherd
Ken Russell, Hetty Baynes
Ron Allet, Less Allet
Ronald Gräbe, WDR
35mm; colour; 1:1,85