February 2, 2013
The films of women are always the most threatening to a regime. In 2013, Kathryn Bigelow became the latest in a long line of female directors to be targeted by those in power: her depiction of torture in Zero Dark Thirty may lead to her testifying in front of Congress. So it was back in 1966 when controversial Czech director VĚRA CHYTILOVÁ (born 1929) released her most famous film, Daisies (Sedmikrásky). Czech authorities banned her film on the grounds of “food wastage” and “depicting the wanton,” and made it hard for her to find work in her home country for many years. The film revolves around two young women who decide that the world around them is “spoiled”; in a rotten world, what is the point of trying to behave? In a series of Beckett-esque scenes that foreshadow the rise of “celebutantes” like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, the girls of Daisies don dozens of costumes as part of their plan to scheme unsuspecting men out of their money. They get drunk in nightclubs, set fires, hide behind false identities, and eventually destroy a banquet hall in an epic, sexually provocative food fight before being crushed to death by a falling chandelier. Despite the anarchist, proto-punk spirit of the film, the violent death of the girls seems to suggest that people can’t (or shouldn’t) be forgiven for their wrongdoing. Chytilová’s innovative combination of nonprofessional actors and jarring visual techniques ensures that her films feel innovative all these decades later. “I have no desire to cuddle my audience,” she famously told reporters. That cinematic ethos makes her an inspiration to all modern directors, female or otherwise.
READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist Generation (1924-33).