Teeming with silent-era affectation and ebullient editorial handiwork, Daisies conceals political allusions beneath slapstick and stylistic extravagance, transforming mischief and chaos into egalitarian protest. Weaponizing art and femininity against the constraints of a communist state, Věra Chytilová championed technique and aesthetic as personal catharsis, deriding the feigned unity of collectivism by revealing the pleasure in independent creation.
Eschewing the conformity of narrative, Chytilová constructed a quilt of images and symbols, tampering with the origins of sound by replacing its natural cadence with clanging gears of war. The opening credits are powered by militant bugle and churning mechanism, punctuated by abrupt silences that lend an eerie calm to footage of detonating bombs and airborne fire fights. Her human avatars (Jitka Cerhová and Ivana Karbanová) are just as robotic as her machines, creaking like unlubricated hinges with each gyrating limb or swiveling head. She allows the ticking of a clock pendulum to spur her puppets into motion, shifting between lens filter and setting to mirror their physicality.
Transitions are jarring and without precedent, employing the score as onomatopoeia in an experiment with tone and texture. Pigments shift from pink to orange to green as jump cuts dash through dining sequences, condensing the superficiality of small talk into forgotten moments between sips of coffee and cigarettes. A postprandial train ride even transforms into an impressionistic painting, as radiant tones trail behind the caboose like bleary neon lights on the tracks.
Chytilová finds freedom in this artistic frivolity, utilizing semantic games buried within her images to impart meaning, applying sharpened scissors as the literal and a flatbed film editor as the figurative. Anarchic visions of rapidly-diced eggs, bananas and sausages act as an affront to the biological necessity of sex organs, defacing the pragmatic restraints of the nuclear family and demanding autonomy by force. Shears even dissect bodies into pieces like a butcher’s cleaver, leaving superimposed limbs and heads to ghoulishly dance about the screen, calculating human value by the sum of its anatomical parts. The transgression of the content is even strong enough to alter the form, resulting in a dissection of the image, dissolving it into contorted, rectangular blocks within the camera eye.
In a final act of defiance, the director and her fictional peers find transcendence through gluttony and vandalism, shuffling off the plow lines and coaxing the image to polychromatic life by gorging on pheasant and ripping the chandelier from the ceiling. Through this host of recurring symbols and mutinous declarations, ranging from the captive beauty of the butterfly to the vulgarity of indulgence, Věra Chytilová inserts her interchangeable pranksters into the harnesses of radical socialism, marvelling as their indomitable spirit prevails in the face of an automated society.
Daisies (Barrandov Studios, 1966)
Directed by Věra Chytilová
Written by Věra Chytilová (story/screenplay), Ester Krumbachová (screenplay) and Pavel Jurácek (screenplay)
Photographed by Jaroslav Kucera