Friday, November 3rd MFAH will screen the 1966 Czechoslovakian film, Daisies. Written and directed by Vera Chytilova, Daises is memorialized as a touchstone piece in the film/art movement, Nova Vlna. And coming to us just three days shy of Election Day, Daisies fits nicely into our current political hysteria.
Daisies follows two naive girls, Marie I and Marie II, after they decide to cause mischief and upset common society. From indulging in the fruits of The Tree of Knowledge to engaging in a provocative relationship with a male butterfly collector and crashing a 1920’s dance club, Chytilova intends for the whimsy misdemeanors of Marie I and Marie II to represent revolt against the Czech Communist government. The director’s attack on the Czech Communist is blatantly demonstrated when the girls eventually land themselves in an abandoned factory looking for “nourishment.” Here,they find a feast prepared for communist authorities. After indulging themselves, Marie I and Marie II, decide to continue their mischief by vandalizing the factory.
The layout of the film may sound sequential and linear, but Daisies surrealistic nature forces the viewer to take the film in strides, digesting it frame by frame. Sporadic scenes that the audience can only assume occur outside of the given story, and flat, eccentric dialogue forces the audience into an uncomfortable and vulnerable spot of cinematic atmosphere. And with its bizarre ending, Chytilova gives the audience plenty to talk about on a long, slow drive home.
Chytilova’s anti-communist message got her and her movie, Daises banned from Czechoslovakia. Verna Chytilova wasn’t allowed to make film in Czechoslovakia again until 1975.
Nova Vlna, or perhaps better understood to us in English as the Czechoslovak New Wave, shamelessly scorned the communist regime that had taken over Czechoslovakia in 1948. Now, I think we can safely say that in no way does the timing of this film stand as some sort of subliminal message reading that a leftist, totalitarian monster threatens to rob us of our “God-given rights” and eat our children in between lessons with the ghost of Kruschev. Putting it in perspective, the main message we may take from Daisies a few days before hitting the polls may better be described as a message of unrelenting scrutinization of the powers that reign. Not to sound indigent or activist, but sometimes we forget that in order to see real, progressive change citizens need to do more than just vote: we must voice our issues with the current setup, and voice them loudly. Filmmakers and artists at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague- where the Czechoslovakian New Wave movement began- overarching goal in producing film was “to make the Czech people collectively aware that they were participants in a system of oppression and incompetence which had brutalized them all.” Or to echo the prominent French thinker Jean Paul Sarte, who actively wrote and protested during the time of Daisies and other Czech New Wave film- we are involved and we don’t realize the significance of our situation.