A truly original film yet a distinctly dated product of its time and place, Czech director Věra Chytilová's mid-sixties cause célèbre follows the non-linear adventures of two young girls through a series of nihilistic, absurdist episodes randomly sequenced in a quasi-experimentalist stream-of-consciousness, breathing the satirical tradition of Bohemian literature into utterly modern pop-art and subversive aesthetics.

     Full of arch optical tricks, surrealist/collagist non-sequiturs and a simultaneous fascination and derision for transgression, Daisies could not have been made at any other place or time other than in the mid-1960s Czechoslovakia. Yet, its nonsensical humour and cut-up visuals are of a piece with foreign contemporaries such as Monty Python's irreverent college humour, swinging-sixties pop-art and psychedelic counter-culture - its freedom of thought and expression earning it the wrath of the Czech cultural and political establishment, leading the film to be withdrawn and Ms. Chytilová (whose second full-length feature it was) to be banned from directing for another ten years. However, there is also an edgy, sinister undercurrent in the adventures of these roommates (non-pros Ivana Karbanová and Jitka Cerhová). Their bored nihilism results from their realisation that "everything is spoiled" and there's no point in behaving, even though they may have to pay the ultimate prize for it - suggesting that only through the powers of imagination and creative revolt could the grimness of modern life and of a "grey" society be transcended. (No wonder the film's crisp black-and-white photography explodes regularly into brightly coloured interludes.)

     The film's ending, as absurdist as what came before, suggests simultaneously, though, that nihilism and revolution can be pushed so far off the edge that they end up becoming counter-productive, but also that once off the edge there can be no going back to what was before. An endlessly inventive, freewheeling object, Daisies may be a little seen film but remains a landmark in the history of the post-1960 "New Waves", and traces of its DNA can be found in a lot of contemporary cinemas (the current Greek generation comes to mind).

Ivana Karbanová, Jitka Cerhová; Marie Cesková, Jirina Mysková, Marcela Brezinová, Julius Albert, Oldrich Hora, Jan Klusak, Josef Konicek, Jaromir Vomacka.
     Director, Věra Chytilová; screenplay, Ester Krumbachová, Ms. Chytilová, with Jaroslav Kučera, from a story by Ms. Chytilová and Pavel Juraček; cinematography, Mr. Kučera (colour with black & white segments, processing by Barrandov Film Studios); music, Jiří Šust, Jiří Šlitr; designer, Karel Lier; costumes, Ester Krumbachová; editor, Miloslav Hájek; production, Studio Barrandov, Czechoslovakia, 1966, 79 minutes.
     Screened: IndieLisboa 2012, Culturgest - Pequeno Auditório (Lisbon), April 28th 2012. 


Popular Posts