Backlog #19: Daisies (1966)

This 1966 Czech film was probably the craziest that I watched in this list. It begins with a title sequence of footage of fighter planes strafing (akin to the sequences in The World at War but treated and tinted like the Jupiter and Beyond chapter of 2001).

The narrative then begins: two young ladies briefly and (comically) unemotionally consider the point of following the rules in life. Deciding against, they proceed to raise merry hell for an hour and a quarter. That’s it – the setting changes from their bedroom, to the apartment of a supposed suitor/boyfriend, to a nightclub, to a deserted factory and then a banquet hall. All throughout they behave atrociously, gorging on food, acting with insouciance; not only letting their (bad) desires and drives take over beyond control but acting beyond reason (would you hang tissue paper and sausages from your bedroom wall and then set fire to them?).

So this film is a nose-thumbing at the rules and formalities of life, the certainties and hypocrisies (most certainly those of class and sex) in society – pertinently in the controlled, rigid society it was made in and set (the Czechoslovak authorities banned it immediately).

Even at almost fifty years distance, Daisies sets out to shock. The two girls, Marie I and Marie II are barely presented at any point as sympathetic although the slimy, toad-like, uncomprehending male characters they torment are even worse. Věra Chytilová’s direction is a new wave bag of tricks that takes off from Godard, the most anything-goes exhibition that I think I’ve seen yet – it just about stays on the right side of film school showing-off.

Thus Daisies was a film that I found to be enjoyable but not very likable. It’s done with great style and (obscured) passion even, but it doesn’t offer anything against the system it attacks other than chaos (lawful chaos, none of the characters in this film suffers any physical harm). It’s a cry of freedom from the perspective of feminism and youth – that has to be admirable, whatever way that the appeal is transmitted.

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