Friday, April 06, 2007


Daisies is a 1966 experimental Czech film directed by Vera Chytilova. The DVD cover loudly says that it is a "madcap feminist farce" which doesn't really describe what this film is about. There is no story, there are no characters and everything is as non-naturalistic as perhaps the technology of that time could have allowed it to be. There are collages, inserts from documentary films, shifting back and forth into colour and black and white, scenes shot with colour filters and the actors, who remain mostly anonymous, mouthing their dialogues, all non-sequiturs, like robots.

It is of course very baffling but after a while it becomes clear that the director Vera Chytilova is making a statement against conventional cinema. She clearly finds the conventional cinematic mode of representation of reality, creation and sustenance of an illusion and spectator's identification with the story or characters as something conservative in itself. She is mocking at the conventions not through the content but rather through the form itself.

This is a nice film and I liked it quite a bit but at the end there was a feeling that as if it was not enough. That an opportunity was lost to say something more meaningful and complex. All this formal innovation and nose thumbing at the convention are fine and good, but the film really doesn't have any original ideas of its own. Even when it does say something, mostly mocking the way relationships between men and women in the society as they exist or how women should behave etc., it is not really anything complex. It is as if all of director's energies went into inventing those new imageries and in the end she really didn't have much to say or offer of her own. I wanted to see something like the political and philosophical references and grandstanding that one finds in Godard for example or even some hidden, intuitive unity which is there in David Lynch's films, just to name perhaps two of the most popular non-narrative filmmakers. Basically I was looking for some intellectual meat inside all those formal gimmickries which could have made it even more interesting.

Some nice write-ups on the film, more detailed and enthusiastic, here and here.
Lots of information about the director here and here.


Space Bar said...'re doing an end of the '60s czech retro! i used to love daisies. then i saw it recently and i realised it doesn't wear well. i think that happens often with films that do things with form without enough thought to content (as you've so rightly pointed out in your post).

I'll be re-watching valerie soon, after nearly 12 years. i loved it then; have to see if it will be disappointing.

btw, slightly technical qs, but what was the print like? was it a good transfer? do the colours look ok, or mostly read? that' a part of the reason why i lost interest; the print i saw recently was terrible.

Space Bar said...

er...i meant 'red'; not 'read'.

Alok said...

The DVD transfer was really good. Actually it does need a good transfer because it plays with colours and lighting so much. Many details might be lost if the transfer is not so good.

Will see if I can find Valerie and her week of wonder too here....