Daisies

English Title: Daisies

Original Title: Sedmikrásky

Country of Origin: Czechoslovakia

Studio: Filmové Studio Barrandov

Director: Věra Chytilová

Producer(s): Rudolf Hájek

Screenplay: Věra Chytilová, Ester Krumbachová, Pavel Juráček

Cinematographer: Jaroslav Kučera

Editor: Miroslav Hájek

Runtime: 74 minutes

Genre: Surrealist/Comedy/Drama

Language: Slovak

Starring/Cast: Ivana Karbanová, Jitka Cerhová, Marie Češková

Year: 1966

Volume: East European

Synopsis:

After deciding that the world around them has become a very corrupt and evil place, two young girls decide to run amuck and rebel against a system they see as outdated and boring. Deliberately causing as much havoc as possible everywhere they go, the two teenage girls spend their time attending dates with older men and stringing them along, revelling in their seemingly limitless appetite for food and eating, and playacting around their home. After finding themselves in a bourgeois household, they eat all the food at a large banquet and subsequently wreck the dining room, before being placed in a mysterious and menacing situation in which they have to potentially face up to their behaviour and its ramifications.


Critique:

An explosive and breathtaking film from writer/director Věra Chytilová, Sedmikrásky/Daisies is one of the key texts of the groundbreaking Czech New Wave, and one of the most adventurous films of the Sixties. Combining vibrant, fluctuating colours (including switches between sepia and black-and-white), inventive sound design and the prevailing, anarchic spirit of the times, Chytilová’s film is an unforgettable experience that has only improved with age.

 

Věra Chytilová had been making films since the early 1960s, but none of them contained the surreal vision and playfully multivalent post-modernism of Daisies. Despite borrowing stylistic elements from such far-ranging influences as the French New Wave, big-budget Hollywood musicals, the theatre of the absurd, silent screwball comedies and documentary features, Daisies is nonetheless a film in which the director manages to fuse all her influences into something original and distinct. It is a defiant work (one which was ironically financed by the very government that Chytilová was rebelling against), and remains as thematically far reaching as it is stylistically innovative. It is arguable that the film offers an example of pioneering feminism – given the essential anonymity of the protagonists, and the emphasis on fruit and apples in particular (something that features in other Chytilová films), one may read a sub-textual concern with femininity and original sin. However, its exploration of a world in which two women may be understood as revolting against the perceived oppression of their place in bourgeois society certainly contains dark political overtones – made clear immediately with the opening documentary footage of World War II battles – as well as much joyous, performative playacting that feeds into a self-reflexive thematic of storytelling and film-making.

 

As the two protagonists, Ivana Karbanová and Jitka Cerhová, are both charming without become ingratiating, and manage to inject every scene in the film with a delightfully subversive wit, Daisies, unlike some of its counterparts in the Czech New Wave, is not simply a film about the hope of freedom but a work of freedom and liberation itself (and one unsurprisingly banned by the government shortly after its theatrical release). This notion is ultimately crystallized in the narrative’s ambiguous denouement, as it is only when they step away from their avowed freedom that both girls face possible destruction.    

 

Daisies has, perhaps, never received the credit it deserves as one of the defining, paradigmatic films of the 1960s; however, its impact and influence has been widely felt. One can see, for instance, that Chytilová laid the foundations upon which Jaromil Jireš would build in his key contribution to the Czech New Wave: the similarly-themed Valerie a Týden Divů/Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970); whilst the film would also prove a significant thematic precursor to Jacques Rivette’s French nouvelle vague masterpiece Céline et Julie vont en bateau/Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974). Moreover, Daisies contains early traces of the gleeful nihilism that would blossom in the Seventies punk movement. Chytilová’s audacious and brave work is now more readily available than at any time before thanks to a Second Run DVD release and attendant critical profile. It is ripe for rediscovery as a great, representative work from one of cinema’s most openly experimental and important periods.     

Author of this review: Jeremy Richey