Rigid East Website

A Note for Absence

Release Date: August 2001
Running Time: 30 minutes
Review by UK Reviewer, Feb 2002

A Note for Absence is the first in a new series of a planned dozen or more films set in the "headmasteršs study". Unlike previous productions from this studio (in which some very genuine canings are inflicted in unconvincing surroundings - what reform school worth its name uses a domestic lounge as its punishment room?) this new series promises authenticity, with professionalism in scripting, production, and direction, while sticking to the studiošs mission statement - the modification of the behavior of girls and young ladies by the application of severe corporal punishment. And, as always from Rigid East, much to exercise onešs prudence but no sexual activity.
The period depicted is turn-of-the-century (c.1900) central europe (not Czechoslovakia which was carved out of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and only came into existence following the First World War) when skirts were long and domestic electric lighting was still being developed - a nice touch, added in The Catechism, the second film in the series, is the surface wiring between the old-style wall switch and the ceiling light fitting. The set is a simple box one, but quite large, with polished wood floor (on which the punishment bench slips a little as the caning reaches full force), and period wallpaper. Religious statuary and images are much in evidence, guaranteeing that God in his mercy will ensure that discipline is strictly maintained, preferably under the lash. Prominent alongside the headmasteršs desk is a rack of four canes of various thickness. A carpet beater hangs from the bent wood coat stand, and the handle of a huge birch sticks out of a jar in which its business end is no doubt being pickled. In the center of the room stands the punishment bench complete with broad leather straps and buckles for securing the wrists, waist, and legs (sufficient for restraint under the cane, but no silly bondage).
The story is a simple one. Maria has forged her fatheršs signature on an absence note. As the caning occupies only 14 minutes of the 30 minute running time there is quite a bit of build-up business at the beginning: Maria does not enter the headmasteršs room in a sufficiently obsequious manner and has to do it more than once until she gets it right. The punishment for forgery is expulsion but in the face of Mariašs avowal that her father would kill her this is modified to fifty strokes of the cane. She has to use a chamber pot before the caning commences. The dialogue is in Czech but Rigid Eastšs web site provides a "Comic Strip" containing captioned stills (in English and German) from the film so that the general line of the story can be understood.
We know Maria is no stranger to the cane. When she first bares her bottom a widespread suffused bruising is visible. This is explained for the purpose of the film as the residue of a paddling she recently had from her father, but those who have seen The Fairy Tale, also by Rigid East, will know that in reality it is the result of a caning she receives while playing a naughty princess. This is confirmed by a very clear stripe on her lower back caused by a misplaced stroke while she kneels at the whipping post in that film. The princess's maid is whipped in The Fairy Tale too and she plays the pupil in The Catechism which is number two in the headmaster's study series. The fact that these two young ladies were willing to be chastised till they bled in canings separated by only around a month suggest that corporal punishment, while teaching a sound lesson, does not traumatise psychologically, and that no healthy girl will be dissuaded from coming back for more (persuaded by the fee if filming, or goaded on by her natural mischief in real life).

2nd Review

A Note for Absence

Reviewed by Ludwig (first published at Ludwig's Rohrstock-Palast http://rohrstockpalast.blogspot.com). Posted to Spreview on 9/12/08

Entire Story In Fewer Words Than Are In This Sentence:
Pupil thrashed for forging signature

Victim Appeal:
This is the first title in the famous "From the Headmaster's Study" series, published when the wolves still called themselves Rigid East. It stars the same blonde girl who played the princess in "The Fairy Tale", another early classic. Since neither video gives acting credits, I will simply call her by her character name here: Maria Dolezalova, a Czech schoolgirl in the turn-of-the-century Habsburg empire.

Maria is a cute lass with a small nose and soulful eyes. Her barely legal youngish looks make her ideal for the role, and she puts them to good use in a wonderful performance. I like Maria's facial expressions in particular - pouting lips, wrinkled brow, wide-eyed surprise, silent puppy dog pleading, she has the whole routine. Her tone of voice - a combination of meekness and defiant, quiet nagging - is another great touch. You just want to tie the girl down and whip her until she screams. Which is of course exactly what happens.

She is sent to the headmaster's office by her teacher, the reason being that there are doubts about the authenticity of an absence note. Miss Dolezalova eventually confesses that she wrote it herself and forged her father's signature. The headmaster is already annoyed with her because she didn't curtsy after coming in. Moreover, the girl has a history of frequently getting in trouble, so he decides that a very severe thrashing is in order this time. He makes it clear that this will be her final warning before expulsion from the school.

Gratuitous Sadism:
Because the "humanist rules of the founders of our institute" only permit 25 lashes per offense, the headmaster gives Maria that amount for the fake note - and another maximum sentence for her lack of manners! Fifty strokes in total, then, a truly memorable lesson. During her ordeal, the girl is tied to the headmaster's caning bench, which would become a frequent (and magnificent) sight in future Lupus productions.

This is the first movie appearance of Pavel Stastny - He of the Left-Handed Full Arm Swings. Therefore, it goes without saying that there is plenty of cruelty to go around. Words can't describe how I admire and envy the guy. The bald, bearded, dark-eyed look, the effortless authoritarian demeanour, not to mention the fact that he has given countless young ladies the hardest caning of their lives. He is fearsome and imposing even for experienced bottoms and exemplifies everything I hopelessly aspire to be. Well, maybe not everything - I have quite a different "ideal self" vision, actually. But I wouldn't mind trading places with Pavel for a day or two, and I'd give anything - anything! - for only a fraction of his natural scariness.

Actually, the beating here lacks the ruthless ultra-severity of some of Headmaster Stastny's later efforts, but it is still fairly hard. My one complaint is that it comes on top of a previous, recent punishment, so the victim's bottom is already vividly marked. In the story, the bruises are explained by a spanking Maria's father gave her the day before. They really are remains from the girl's other Rigid East movie (it's obvious from a misplaced stripe that went on her lower back when she got punished as the naughty princess).

I suppose there are reasons for why the production dates couldn't be set further apart, but I for one think it's a pity. I just find the old marks visually distracting. On the other hand, maybe your taste differs and this is exactly what you love to see - the results from two successive werewolf-style canings (damage be damned!). If that is so, search no further. In any case, it's a pretty good scene, despite my preference for a "fresh canvas".

Lest I forget, there is also a humiliating little segment when the girl has to relieve herself before the punishment, using the pee pot the headmaster has in his office - behind a blind that hides her from view, but doesn't stop the sound, of course. Not really my kind of embarassment fetish, but you might like it.

Best Reactions:
With only one victim and one type of punishment, I obviously can't pick any best reactions. Suffice to say that Maria's are well worth seeing, and listening to - she produces some rather gorgeous screams, loud and anguished, but not over the top, just right. I also like the way her upper body jumps after each stroke. It's the only possible kind of movement in the restraints of the caning bench and very sexy to watch.

Best Line:
When Miss Dolezalova first enters the headmaster's office without dropping a curtsy (or saying "good morning"), he immediately sends her out again. She starts protesting: "But I came because..." He sternly cuts her off: "I don't care why you came. I mind the way you came." I just love that line. Maria eventually gets the entrance ritual right at the third attempt - too late, of course.

Nice Psychological Touch:
The opening shot of the movie immediately captures one's attention. It has the period look of a silent movie, with a yellowish tinge and plenty of grain. A nice little effect. Merry pseudo-ragtime piano music is playing. We see the headmaster sitting at his desk, reading and smoking. A couple of canes hang on the wall beside him. When there is a knock on the door, he hastily puts the book aside and exstinguishes his cigarette. The camera pans to the right, past the chastisement bench, and we see the girl coming through the door. Then the movie slowly fades into a normal, modern look.

It's a typical Lupus scene in several ways. A humorous little idea that takes you right to the time and place, a sense of foreboding as the camera's eye wanders casually over the canes and bench, a delightful mix of lightheartedness and palpable threat. Later on, there is another neat shot when Dolezalova confesses to forging the note and drops to her knees, pleading for mercy. The headmaster wryly remarks: "That's a very fitting position in your situation." The camera uses a high angle shot to illustrate his perspective and a low angle for the girl's. Again, a fittingly old-fashioned way to contrast a powerful character with a subordinate one.

How Good Is It Really?
"A Note for Absence" falls into the transition phase when Rigid East became Lupus Pictures, between the normal living room setting of "Wild Party" and their later epic, super-professional productions. It takes place in a single location, features only two characters and a fairly straightforward story. But the headmaster's office shows all the loving attention to detail and authenticity that would become their hallmark - the furniture, the period pictures and the cross on the wall, the flourished writing on the note, and so forth. At the time, this was a new standard in spanking movies. Even today, the craftsmanship remains beyond the means of most other producers.

Some flaws are still there. The editing is far from perfect yet - there are too many quick cuts during the caning. Then there is the issue of the girl's old bruises, which is a drawback for me. But while I wouldn't count it among the all-time greats, "A Note for Absence" is a good video by any standard. As the first installment of the "From the Headmaster's Study" series, it is required viewing for Lupus fans for historical value alone.

What You Learned:
The Habsburg monarchy may have been the "sick man of Europe" at the time, but when it came to enforcing discipline, its schools left little to be desired. 25 cane strokes for not dropping a curtsy? That's very harsh indeed. Come to think of it, there is a correlation here - draconian measures are of course typical for tottering, backwards regimes. But they sure are fun to watch on film.

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