A truly whimsical spectacular, Vera Chytilová’s Daisies (1966) is one of those films that all fans of the surreal should see. Initially banned by Czechoslovak authorities due to “depicting the wanton”, Daisies tells the story of two young girls named Marie, who become aware that society has become spoiled. Since society has gone bad, they can go bad too. We follow them as they play a series of pranks, and explore the different ways in which young women can become spoiled in Czech society at the time.
I’m always surprised that more people don’t know about this one. Lots of people know about Dalí and Buñuel’s amazing Un Chien Andalou (1929) as the ultimate surreal film, but for some reason, Daisies isn’t as widely known yet. Maybe it’s because the Czech New Wave movement isn’t in the public consciousness as much as the original surrealist movement from the 1920s-30s. Daisies is a subversive and anarchic film which, from the very beginning, seeks to juxtapose the masculine world of work and war with the needs of its female protagonists to find their own feminine identity within it.
Throughout the film, the audience is presented with elements that just don’t fit together. Incongruous noises and visions, brief moments of violence and destruction that are completely forgotten in the next scene. Whenever I watch Daisies, I am particularly entranced by the film score, which comprises both classical music and the noises of everyday objects, such as typewriters and saws. The film’s composition changes from scene to scene; one moment, the film will be in black and white, then sepia, then bright purple, then in normal colour, changing colours all the time. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to the different coloured scenes, but they all contribute to an overall sense of surrealism that at times can be equal parts jarring and inspiring.
Although the film can be a bit repetitive at times, it is this repetition that drums the facts of the film into your consciousness. It’s done in such a way that reinforces the surreal ‘narrative’. I really enjoy the film’s quirky humour and slapstick moments, and I’m not usually a fan of slapstick comedy. I love the film for its energy and character. As the two Maries go on gluttonous dinner dates with older men, are romantically pursued by younger men, get drunk and dance embarrassingly at a fancy nightclub – we are given an insight into the needs and desires of these young women that they aren’t able to otherwise express.
Daisies is perhaps best known for its destructive and explosive ending, which I won’t spoil here as I want everyone to experience this film without knowing the ending. The ending of the film is perhaps what led to the director’s blacklisting in her home country, as it displays an intense amount of gluttony and ‘wanton behaviour’ that would have been unacceptable under a staunch Communist regime. Viewing the film from this perspective makes it so special. The fact that this film was even able to be made in such a political environment makes me respect the director so much, and appreciate her vision for women in a world where their desires may have been less than appreciated.
I love Daisies because it explores the female identity, as of 1960s Czechoslovakia, in a quirky, surreal, and dynamic way. When considering the film in its context, it is no surprise that as young women attempting to find their place in the world beyond the norm that is expected of them, their path is lined with destruction. From this destruction, the two young women are able to construct their own identities, albeit with unintended consequences. Daisies is a viewing experience that you won’t soon forget, and for lovers of the surreal, I highly encourage you to seek this one out.
Watch a teaser for the film here.