ⓘ Daisies (film)

                                     

ⓘ Daisies (film)

Daisies is a 1966 Czechoslovak comedy-drama film written and directed by Vera Chytilova. Generally regarded as a milestone of the Czechoslovak New Wave movement, it follows two young girls, both named Marie, who engage in strange pranks.

                                     

1. Plot

The opening sequence is that of a spinning flywheel with shots of airplanes strafing the ground. The shots of the airplanes are from US Navy footage shot in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. The first scene shows the two main characters sitting in bathing suits. Their conversation is robotic and from that point on they decide to be bad. The next scene shows Marie I and Marie II dancing in front of a tree. The tree has many fruits and resembles the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Once Marie I eats from the tree, they both fall and appear in their apartment. Marie II attempts suicide by filling the room with gas, but fails because she left the window open.

In an extended sequence of scenes, the girls go on dates with a series of older men. In each scene, the girls cavort and eat lots of food while mocking their date, who is driven to the end of his patience, at which point the girls say that they are late for a train, and then ditch the man at the train station.

The girls eventually go to a nightclub with 1920s-style dancers and cause a ruckus. Marie II also goes to the apartment of a man who is a butterfly collector. In this scene, there are a lot of butterflies shown as still frames. The man repeatedly declares his love to Marie II, whom he calls Julie. At the end, she says that she wants to eat. In later scenes, the two girls lounge about in various rooms while listening to their suitors profess love for them over the phone. These scenes are accompanied by footage of the girls destroying phallic food, as well as eggs.

At one point, the girls meet an older woman, who begs them to stay for a bit, and remarks on how she misses her youth. The girls wait for her to step out, then rob her and leave, after which they philosophize about their actions.

Later on, they go to a factory. There are still frames of locks, and the building looks run down. They look for "nourishment" and stumble upon a feast. They eat the food, make a mess and destroy the room. They destroy a chandelier, and the film cuts to them being dunked in water like witches, as the director states how there can be no "clean resolution" to the destructive dinner. The Maries return to the dining room, and attempt to clean the room while whispering about being good and hardworking, and that this will make them happy.

The film closes with war footage similar to the beginning, and ends with an epigraph that the film is "dedicated to those who get upset only over a stomped-upon bed of lettuce".

                                     

2. Cast

  • Jieina Myskova as Toilet lady
  • Ivana Karbanova as Marie II
  • Jaromir Vomacka as Happy gentleman
  • Oldeich Hora as Dandy
  • Marie Českova as Woman in the bathroom
  • Jan Klusak as Young dandy
  • Julius Albert as Older dandy
  • Josef Konicek as Dancer
  • Marcela Beezinova as Toilet lady
  • Jitka Cerhova as Marie I
                                     

3. Themes and style

Throughout the film, the two main characters muse about youth, happiness, existence, and the state of being spoiled. The film has very little in the way of plot structure, and scenes proceed from one to the next chaotically, frequently switching between black and white, color, and filter color footage. Many scenes include elements of slapstick, and the characters spend a significant amount of the film eating or playing with food.

                                     

4.1. Reception Domestic

The film was positively received by Czech audience and critics. Film critic Antonin J. Liehm wrote that Daisies are "a remarkable film not only for the viewers that apreciate its artistic significance, but also for those who just want to be entertained and might miss its magnitude on the first viewing". Author Milan Kundera called the film "masterly made" and wrote that "monstrosity of the main characters was depicted elegantly, poetically, dreamlike and beautifully, but without becoming any less monstrous". It won the Trilobit Award for the Best Czechoslovak movie of 1966 by Film and TV Union. However after being criticized by the communist MP Jaroslav Pruzinec during interpelations in May 1967, the film was pulled from all major cinemas and was only screened in smaller venues.

                                     

4.2. Reception International

The film was also very well received in Europe. French journalist Pierre Billard, writing for LExpress, compared the Daisies to Mack Sennett and Marx Brothers movies and called it "a grand celebration of absurdities with technical finesse and marvellous art direction so rarely achieved". In US press the reception was mostly negative. Bosley Crowther in New York Times wrote: "Pretentiously kookie and laboriously overblown mod farce about two playgirls who are thoroughly emptyheaded. Its stabs at humor and satire simply dont cut."

It is the highest ranked Czech film in They Shoot Pictures Dont They, an online aggregator of critic best-of lists.