1966. Directed by Vera Chytilova.
One of my favorite things about movies is that I often encounter films made in other countries or time periods whose very existence was a crucible. These movies serve as important reminders of my personal privilege and enhance my respect and appreciation for other cultures. Vera Chytilova's Daisies is such a cinematic experience.
Filmed two years prior to Czechoslovak's Prague Spring (a liberal renaissance that was ultimately undone by the soviets) Daisies is one of the most powerful feminist films in existence. A statement on class and sexual inequality, Daisies was banned by Czech authorities upon release and Chytilova wasn't able to work in her home country until 1975. Despite these setbacks the film went on to receive the coveted Grand Prix from the Belgian Film Critics Association and has become required viewing for Czech New Wave cinema.
Daisies tells the surreal story of Marie I and Marie II as they transition from soulless capitulators to vibrant rebels. They decide to be "bad" and embark on a series of adventures, highlighting not only the young women's personal growth and erotic awakenings, but also targeting the bourgeoisie communist leadership with it's culinary excess allegories. Food is indeed the centerpiece in almost every scene, a constant reminder of the starving masses and the ignorant or possibly malicious indulgence of the wealthy.
Jaroslav Kucera filmed Daises in 1:37 1, giving it a filthy operatic appearance. The girls and their pranks are always in focus, allowing their sense of independence to swell along side their hedonistic glutton. In the final act, it becomes confusing as to the overall intent. On one hand, there are powerful feminist symbols and undertones while conversely the film is a powerful political statement on personal freedoms and the absolutely criminal actions of the wealthy elite. In the end, I think Chytilova had a lot on her mind and made a film saying many things at once, which makes it intoxicatingly beautiful but also hard to to digest if the viewer is new to foreign films and unfamiliar with the country's history.
Available now on Huluplus, Daisies is a lean 76 minute thrill ride through the subconscious of two (maybe?) young women whose escape from the confines of their social status is a dreamy street level examination of the massive problems of a nation whose ideals are no longer their own. Big things often come in small, alluring packages and Daisies doesn't disappoint.