Monday, 22 February 2010
"For all the male ‘coming of age’ stories in the world, it makes sense that their rare female equivalent would have to be as bizarre as possible,” says Nina Power in her book, One Dimensional Woman (p.40) about Daisies (Sedmikrásky), the 1966 film by Czech director Věra Chytilová .
A commentator on the IMDb cleverly observes, "The whole thing plays like parody Godard, with Marie II as Anna Karina, with meaningful conversations about love accompanied by the girls cutting up sausages and bananas: the butterfly sequence is a wicked lampoon of 'Vivre sa Vie'. Where Godard's heroines remained fixed and stared at, the two Maries laugh, look, escape, see their frame and break it, insist on their body as something more than an object, something they can play with themselves."
Man: "I want this moment to last forever!"
As someone who responded in her interview for film school to the question "why do you want to come here?" with "because I don't want to make films like you do", it seems fitting that Chytilová's film can simultaneously fart in the face of 'The Masters' whilst displaying a masterly grasp of Dadaist tradition, technical experimentation, her country's political situation, and her own gutsy agenda.
The Maries answer their telephone with the words "Die, die, die", and gobble their way through banquets laid out for dignitaries, their own pot of gherkins by the bed, or, when they are particularly ravenous, the glossy photos of desirable foods in Czech-style issues of Good Housekeeping.
The conflicting East/West ideologies of the day are slapped around the chops in equal measures, and although the girls are punished along the way as all good heroines should, they bring to a modern reading nostalgic notes other than the psychedelia, post-war absurdist theatricals and eyeliner of the period. These notes range from flapperish insouciance to riot grrrl ferocity to a very recognisable teenage eye-roll and LOLZ attitude. As Power says, that the "formal inventiveness of the film would undermine its claims to ‘realism,’ (...) is all the better." It is like when Marie II tries to kill herself by leaving the gas on, reclining in a tableaux of apples and leaves, but forgets to close the window, and so rolls over and bites one of the apples, or when a scene of carnage is touchingly (and dare I say, with a feminine kind of bother) rather craply put back together; there are fresh gusts of realism in Chytilová's hysteria, powering the revolt, the solarised burn outs and tramples into trifles, and at 73 minutes (no typical drawn out 'art film' endurance tests here) it's just pure joy to have such a truthful cinematic experience.