By Madeline Bocaro ©
In November 1968 work began on John & Yoko’s film Rape. The 77-minute film was shot in London for Austrian television and debuted on March 31, 1969. The script was conceptualized by Yoko in 1968 (as part of Thirteen Film Scores) and was shot according to Yoko’s written instructions:
“The cameraman will chase a girl on a street with a camera persistently until he corners her in an alley, and, if possible, until she is in a falling position.”
Shot in late November 1968 by Nic Knowland, Rape premiered on 31 March 1969 on Austria’s public service broadcaster ORF, which had partially funded the project. The disturbing film is sexually charged with underlying themes of violence, although nobody on screen is touched, nor unclothed. Although the woman pursued by the camera appears flattered at first, she becomes increasingly anxious and deeply, alarmingly distraught. It is hard to watch.
While John stayed with Yoko in the hospital following her miscarriage, their hired cameraman Nick Knowland selected a beautiful girl who was a tourist in London to star in the film. She later claimed she was an actress after the film was released.
In the materials accompanying the invitations, Yoko wrote,“This film was shot by our cameraman Nick, while we were in a hospital. Nick is a gentle-man who prefers eating clouds and floating pies to shooting “Rape”. Nevertheless it was shot.”
“It was completely candid- except for the effects we did later in the editing. The girl in the film did not know what was happening. Her sister was in on it, so when she calls her sister on the phone, her sister is just laughing at her and the girl doesn’t understand why. Nic Knowland did the actual shooting. I wasn’t there. Everything was candid, but I kept pushing him to bring back better material. The type of material he brought back at first was something like he would be standing on the street, and when a group of girls passed by, he would direct the camera to them. The girls would just giggle and run away, and he wouldn’t follow. I kept saying he could do better than that, be he actually had a personal problem doing the film because he was a Buddhist and a peacenik – he didn’t want to intrude on people’s privacy. I remember John saying later that no actress could have given a performance that real.
I’ve done tons of work, and I don’t have time to check it all out, but I wish I could check about this strange thing, which is that a lot of my works have been a projection of my future fate. It frightens me. It simply frightens me. I don’t want to see Rape now. I haven’t seen the Rape film in a long time, but just thinking about the concept of it frightens me because now I’m in that position, the position of the woman in the film.
– Yoko, A Critical Cinema by Scott McDonald: Yoko Ono – May 1, 1989
The unwitting film star, 21-year old Hungarian Eva Majlata (Rhodes) did not speak English. At the start she is friendly, welcoming the attention. After being relentlessly pursued despite her protestations, she soon realizes that she cannot escape the prying the camera. She is followed, then chased as she begins to run through the streets of London and through a cemetery. Her privacy and space are completely invaded. She becomes so flustered that she runs into traffic. An attempted escape by taxi is also thwarted. She tearfully begs the cameraman to stop, but her pleas are ignored. Eva is eventually cornered in her own apartment with no escape.
Yoko had always portrayed women as strong and powerful, but Rape was her way of showing what society can do to a woman’s psyche, as she was experiencing a similar wrath first-hand as the girlfriend of John Lennon.
“It was just a filmic idea about just following a girl and keep following and filming her and what would happen to somebody who is totally exposed all the time. That filmic idea was something I though before John and I really got together. It’s interesting because in a way, the Beatles were in that position and John was obviously in that position constantly being followed by a camera. We arranged to get a key to the girl’s apartment (from her sister) and she didn’t know anything about this. Guys are still filming her, so she freaked out. There’s just a beautiful scene where she is saying, “Why are you doing this, why are you doing this? Why is this happening to me?” and she’s hiding her face. The biggest riot they ever had about a film thinking it was sexual. There is no sex in the film but this girl being flowed and cracking under the strain of the camera crew following her.”
– Yoko @ The Hit Factory,
December 6, 1980
“We are showing how all of us are exposed and under pressure in our contemporary world. This isn’t just about the Beatles. What is happening to this girl on the screen is happening in Biafra, Vietnam, everywhere.”
– John Lennon
“This film does for the age of television what Franz Kafka’s The Trialdid for the age of totalitarianism.“
– Willie Frischauer, The Evening Standard
The world premiere of Rape was on Austrian Television on March 31, 1969. That year it was also shown at the Montreux Television Festival and the Mannheim Film Festival.
Sadly, the life of actress Eva Rhodes came to a very tragic end. After forming an institution for animals in her native Hungary, Eva had a hard time finding film work. She was brutally murdered in 2008.
(See links below to all news stories about Eva below the photos at the bottom of this story – beneath the photos).
Rape was remade by Fiona Rukschcio for Secession 2012 (Vienna). Rukschcio re-filmed Yoko’s work, recreating the same shots at the original locations but without the woman. Read more here:
On the same afternoon (before the Austrian TV broadcast of Rape), John and Yoko held a press conference in Vienna. The couple concealed themselves inside bags (another of Yoko’s pieces – Bagism) the story of which is referenced in their song “The Ballad of John and Yoko”. Inside the bag, John ironically hummed the popular Viennese waltz ‘The Blue Danube’. Yoko sang a Japanese folk song. Yoko got the idea for Bag Piece from the popular children’s story, The Little Prince. The moral of the story is that “One sees rightly only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eyes.”
Also see my story about Bagism: John & Yoko’s Viennese Waltz
Read all my stories about Yoko’s films here:
“Her sense of film is to, say, take an avocado, film it for six days and have, like, mosquitoes buzzing around in the background…
I think she is probably my greatest influence, my favourite artist.”
– Sean Ono Lennon, 2006
John & Yoko @ the Premiere of Rape in Montreaux, Switzerland
The Telegraph – 2009:
The former beauty queen and associate of John Lennon was found just yards from her home after a colleague at an animal sanctuary allegedly confessed to beating and burning her body before burying her. Her family had been campaigning for a proper investigation into her death after Hungarian and British authorities initially ruled out foul play.
Hungarian-born Mrs. Rhodes, 65, came to England as a child and had a successful early career as a model including an appearance in a film by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. She returned to her homeland 12 years ago but disappeared from her animal sanctuary last September, triggering fears from her family that she was in danger.
The police initially refused to take their concerns seriously but eventually agreed to investigate and arrested one of her colleagues who was seen with her on the day she vanished. On Tuesday, the former worker at the remote refuge 200 miles from Budapest confessed to her murder after being asked to take a lie-detector test.
The unnamed man led them to the spot in nearby woods in Bony where he had buried her body after trying for more than an hour to set fire to it. The alleged murderer of the former London socialite told detectives his motive had been robbery. “I poured petrol over her and tried and tried to set fire to it but it wouldn’t ignite. I must have tried for an hour but it wouldn’t burn,” he told detectives at Mosony Sopron County Police. “So I took her body to the woods, dug a hole and buried her.”
The man was identified as a suspect early in the investigation after CCTV footage showed him with his boss on the day she disappeared. He denied being responsible for her death until the polygraph test showed he was lying about her last day at the refuge. “I started beating her on the porch and kept hitting her until she stopped moving. Then she didn’t move any more,” he finally told police.
Ms Rhodes’ sister Judith Majlath – who campaigned tirelessly for a wider investigation into her disappearance said it hand confirmed their fears. She said: “I have known since last September that something like this must have happened. “I’ve tried to tell the authorities, but they just wouldn’t listen to me. I’m in deep shock and sorrow.”
Ms Rhodes’ family feared she’d been murdered after falling foul of local farmers and clashes with police over her sanctuary licence.
Her sister Judith said: “The Hungarian investigation was a joke – they refused to accept they even needed to investigate at first and even when trained sniffer dogs specialised in looking for corpses found indications that my sister had been murdered they still refused to act.” Many locals and police dismissed claims of foul play saying she had simply gone home to the UK.
Her home had been ransacked and a laptop computer and telephones were stolen. Her office records and files were partially destroyed and her car was found abandoned nearby.
Mrs Rhodes was a passionate animal rights activist and used her life savings to set up the Puss in Boots Animal Trust in Hungary 12 years ago.
She took in stray and abused cats and dogs but also campaigned tirelessly for better treatment for animals and an end to Hungarian puppy farms – a move that meant she clashed frequently with local police over their lack of interest in cases of animal cruelty.
She was so unhappy with the way Hungarian police treated her she lodged a complaint in the European Court of Human Rights, which upheld her assertion that police had acted “over-aggressively” towards her.
The victory however did not end a hate campaign against her that included death threats, and eight months ago she vanished, leaving behind all her possessions.
Rhodes was last seen in a Gyor mobile phone shop on September 10 with her alleged killer who she had recruited to help her run the sanctuary.
Eva was formerly married to British architect Mark Rhodes. The couple later divorced and she established the sanctuary.
In the Sixties, all Mrs. Rhodes received for her role in the Lennon/Ono film was an album signed by John and Yoko and a promised £25,000 fee never materialised.
But later, on learning of her new life with animals, the widow of the Beatle ‘made good’ the outstanding fee with all the money going to the sanctuary.
And this previous article…
Jan 17 2009
Murder riddle over the 60s model who caught John and Yoko’s eye
By DAVID WILLIAMS
Last updated at 10:10 PM on 16th January 2009
A former British model and actress who once rubbed shoulders with John Lennon is missing, feared murdered because of her love of animals.
For 12 years Eva Rhodes cared for abandoned cats and dogs at a sanctuary in Hungary funded partly by donations from animal lovers in England and a gift from Yoko Ono, with whom she made a film in the 1960s.
But four months ago the 65-year-old grandmother, who had been the target of a hate campaign and had clashed with local police, vanished and her family believe she has been killed.
Body of former model Eva Rhodes found buried in Hungary (2009)
Murder of model Eva Rhodes was covered up to protect Hungarian police officer, sister claims (2012)
‘Scandalous cover-ups’ threatening trial of man accused of killing John Lennon’s actress friend Eva Rhodes (2010)