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Movie Night: Vera Chytilová’s Daisies

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Let us gather around for a beautiful and weird movie without any obvious plot and discover why it got banned immediately after it’s release.

It was in the sadly now defunct On15thVideo that I first saw the silhouetted image of the two women on a hot pink background. This movie shop was the perfect local business with recommendations from the ‘too cool for you but we are actually really friendly’ staff; so when I saw the movie and it’s recommendation note I knew it’d be a good watch.

Daisies tells the story of two girls named Marie. They laze about while discussing how the world has become spoiled. In a moment of passion, they decide it is their time to be spoiled as well and thus begins the entire trippy movie. The scene quickly changes from the two dancing in a field with a single fruit tree, to extended dinners with older men ready to feed them, and montages of goofing around in cabaret-style night clubs. The movie culminates in a giant food fight after discovering a spectacular feast in a giant banquet hall.

What really makes the movie enthralling is not the plot-line but the visual feast of experimental film techniques. At a time when the French new wave was becoming popular, film’s rules were being broken around the world and Czechoslovakia was no exception. The director, Vera Chytilová, doesn’t hold back. Scenes change from black and white to color. From a filter of red to blue to green. Montages of locks or butterflies or food fill the frame film between scenes. Repeated motions and sounds make for soothing moments in a busy movie. The visuals capture you until the movie is suddenly over.

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Daisies comes from a small collection of films in the Czechoslovak New Wave. Vera Chytilová and other colleges created these films to subtly protest the oppressive government. As summarized from Wikipedia:

The Czechoslovak New Wave was an artistic movement in cinema which evolved out of the earlier Devětsil movement of the thirties. Disgruntled with the communist regime that had taken over in Czechoslovakia in 1948, students of the Film and TV School of The Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (also known as FAMU) became the dissenters of their time. Their objective in making films was “to make the Czech people collectively aware that they were participants in a system of oppression and incompetence which had brutalized them all

Vera Chytilová described her movie as a “philosophical documentary in the form of farce.” Her message of societies passiveness and acceptance of the communist regime and unwillingness to work towards opposition is quite clear if you’re looking for it. However, due to the casting, her criticism of spoiled and apathetic youth didn’t translate that well. Ivana Karbanová and Jitka Cerhová play their characters as charmingly annoying. While you are suppose to despise them by the end when they receive their fate, you feel quite sad instead.

At a time when movies rarely passed the Bechdel test, Daisies passes with flying colors. Reviewers constantly comment feminist theme, but with a creepy Lolita gaze (read if you dare!). When asked, Vera Chytilová has denied a feminist theme; however, she was the only female in her college when many women could not further their education. So it doesn’t surprise me that her naturally-independent ways came across in this film.

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But wait, why was this banned? For food wastage of course. Rather than entice audiences into seeing an anti-government movie, they simply said the excessive eating and food wastage was an insult to a nation suffering from food shortages.

Make some popcorn, cozy up, and give it a watch!

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