Plot: did it all truly happen, or is it merely in Lena’s head?
The best thing you can say in retrospect about Christina Lindberg is that she knew exactly where her strengths lie. Lindberg was a nude model first and she never got a hang of acting no matter how hard she tried. There’s no such thing as a quintessential Christina Lindberg movie for a reason, and probably the best thing she did was the deeply cynical Rötmånad (1970) (where she had an absolute minimum of dialogue) and Exponerad (or Exposed - released in Norway as Sommeren med Lena, no doubt to sucker in the unsuspecting Ingmar Bergman fan, and in the US as The Depraved) followed closely by Anita Swedish Nymphet (1973). Maid In Sweden (1971), often passed off by unscrupulous distributors as an innocuous coming of age drama, pointed exactly to where Lindberg’s career was headed from that point onward. For a few years Christina was a softcore superstar before the advent of hardcore pornography forced her out of the business and into a career in journalism. Decades later Lindberg still can’t escape the looming shadow of the infamous rape revenge caper Thriller – A Cruel Picture (1973). Widely hailed as Lindberg’s most artistic feature Exponerad has shades of Czechoslovakian coming of age fairytale Valerie and Her Week Of Wonders (1970) but it never quite has such lofty aspirations. Gloria Guida might have had The Minor (1974) and Christina had this, but Jaroslava Schallerová got there first.
An image, or reputation, for good or ill, is hard to shake. In the span of just a few years miss Lindberg had worked with Dan Wolman, Gustav Wiklund, Torgny Wickman, Ernst Hofbauer, Walter Boos, and Joe Sarno. Some of whom she would work with on multiple occasions. In doing so she had, perhaps unwittingly, reduced her chances of finding work outside of what she was doing already – and most of the projects she was offered fared accordingly. That isn’t to say that Christina Lindberg was some misunderstood talent, and her expressionless, glassy-eyed style can best be compared to Zora Kerova, Sabrina Siani, or Christina’s Norwegian equivalent and one-time black metal starlet Monica Bråten. Typecast from Rötmånad (1970) onwards Lindberg was an international star who worked in Germany, Hong Kong, and Japan. The majority of that international work seemed to encompass the two years from 1972-74 when she wasn’t working at home. In that capacity she appeared in Girls Who Come to Munich (1972), Schoolgirl Report 4 (1972), Secrets of Sweet Sixteen (1973), Love In Three Dimensions (1973), and Schoolgirl Report 7 (1974).
Lena Svensson (Christina Lindberg) is a seventeen-year-old promiscuous libertine at the height of her sexuality who, to escape her dull lovelife with Jan (Björn Addely), takes flights of fancy in all sorts of sordid scenarios. When things get boring she likes to imagine herself getting abused, molested, and/or killed in a fiery road collision. Lena has cheated on Jan, and he sends her out a retreat where she encounters naturist vacationers Lars (Janna Carlsson) and Ulla (Birgitta Molin). The trio engages in the usual skinnydipping, sunbathing, and nude frolicking until Jan comes to collect Lena. It is then that the lecherous Helge (Heinz Hopf) comes into the picture. Helge coerces Lena into partaking in hedonistic sex parties and extorts her with nude photographs. Life with Jan is safe and comfortable, but the underworld that Helge shows her has so much to offer too. With Helge Lena experiences pleasures she never had before. She gets felt up, tied up, and exposed in about every way. Compared to him Jan is a tremendous bore. At some point Lena is going to have to make a choice. Is the predatory Helge The Depraved of the American distribution title? Is it Lena who looks for each and every opportunity to escape her rural and boring country life - or both? The question Exponerad asks is, “did it all truly happen, or is it merely in Lena’s head?”
That Sweden’s most famous anime sex doll would try to establish a footing in the Far East was all but a given. However, since she didn’t speak the language and/or possessed any martial arts skills she didn’t get any farther than the Eurospy romp Adventure in Denmark (1973) from Hong Kong, and Sex and Fury (1973) and The Kyoto Connection (1973) in Japan. By the time of One-Week Bachelors (1982) she was made redundant, and her career fizzled out. In hindsight it’s a tad difficult to believe that Christina never found work in Italy (Renato Polselli and Luigi Batzella would’ve loved her giant bust) or in the burgeoning Cine-S movement in Spain (Ignacio F. Iquino would have put her to good use), as would have José Ramón Larraz in his horrors. Likewise it’s a bit disconcerting that Tinto Brass never took notice of her voluminous behind, and it’s quite unfair that Christina Lindberg didn’t become a minor Eurcult royalty the way Evelyne Kraft, Janet Ågren, Marie Liljedahl, and Leena Skoog did. To her credit Christina had a habit of appearing in films with people that ostensibly would become more famous than her, whether they were Stellan Skarsgård or Lena Olin. In 1971 miss Lindberg had just started her conquest of Scandinavian sexploitation scene, and Exponerad does more than just showcase her voluptuous naked form, although there’s plenty of that too. No. Exponerad is actually pretty creative when it tries.
For all that can be said about Gloria Guida’s tour de force in bawdy Italian sex comedies at least half of them were actually pretty lighthearted and entertaining. Lindberg’s on the other hand were depressing for the most part. Anita Swedish Nymphet (1973) is downbeat and cynical compared to something as casually sexist and lovingly exploitative as Blue Jeans (1975) (Mario Imperoli’s ode to Gloria Guida’s perfectly shaped ass bordered on the poetic, lest we forget), Maid In Sweden (1971) has a nihilistic mean streak that you wouldn’t find in Monika (1974) or even So Young, So Lovely, So Vicious… (1975). It even goes as far as to recycle an entire 5 minute sequence from Tarzan Triumphs (1943) with Johnny Weissmuller in one scene. To go from the whimsical Rötmånad (1970) to Thriller – A Cruel Picture (1973), a take on Turkish thriller Karate Girl (1973), in just three years is…. something. And none of it is any good. Exponerad on the other hand displays a sense of creativity and playfulness otherwise absent in Lindberg’s filmography up to that point. The Minor (1974) does what Exponerad does in a far more lighthearted manner, and it never has the ick factor. Be that as it may, at least Exponerad attempts - however marginally and futilely - to do something, anything, different to provide la Lindberg with whatever minimal chance to act.
As legend has it, Exponerad premiered at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival in France where it was almost immediately banned in 27 countries. Promoters eagerly used said ban to sell Exponerad on the international market, and Gustav Wiklund was offered a lucrative contract to work under American exploitation mogul Roger Corman. An offer which he, inexplicably and for largely opaque reasons, apparently declined. Understandably Wiklund soon to came to regret his decision, and Lindberg’s career in America was largely built around her appeal as a delectable Scandinavian import. And what projects Christina chose to star in didn’t exactly help either. It’s one thing to star in coming of age dramas as Maid In Sweden (1971) and Anita Swedish Nymphet (1973), but to go from Exponerad and something as comically innocuous as Love In Three Dimensions (1973) to Thriller – A Cruel Picture (1973), and Wide Open (1974) speaks volumes of where the heads of Lindberg’s handlers/publicists were at the time. It’s tragic enough that after One-Week Bachelors (1982) Christina disappeared from the silver screen for about two decades. Since 2000 she has acted sporadically but it looks as if Sweden’s most popular export will forever be relegated to obscurity. Not even Quentin Tarantino (who never hid his adoration for Lindberg’s tenure in exploitation) apparently was able to legitimize the Swedish star into the mainstream.