DAISIES (Věra Chytilová, 1966)

The following is one of the entries from my 100 Greatest Films from the Soviet Union, Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe list, which I invite you to visit on this site if you haven’t already done so. — Dennis

The most beauteous flower of the Czech New Wave, Sedmikrasky is a fresh, anarchic romp combining elements of French New Wave, social satire, slapstick comedy, science fiction, Alice in Wonderland.
     Gal pals Marie I and Marie II decide to be bad—spoiled, mischievous, heedless—because this is how they find the world. Since it is beyond their means to set the world right, they will go along with the world as it is. Thus the teenagers spring into a hedonistic world of their own unfettered imagination, where they dance, vamp, manipulate men, and (beginning with an apple from a tree in the Garden of Eden) mercilessly devour food and drink. Věra Chytilová and Ester Krumbachová wrote the script, creating, among other things, a feminist fable of liberation. In this, the film follows a negative procedure; while we watch the two Maries do lots of things they ought not to do, Daisies argues that they ought to be sufficiently free in society to choose on their own not to do such things. These rebels might restrain themselves were they not under social constraint. Society should not limit female autonomy and freedom. Doing so helps make the world bad, pushing the girls to misbehave.
     Chytilová imbues her film with the liberated air of Buster Keaton’s wondrous Sherlock Jr. (1924). Indeed, she adopts one of that silent film’s techniques: discontinuous cuts that plunge a character into a new scene from one instant to the next. Here, too, an impression is given of unbridled cinematic possibilities.
     The girls burn their apartment, wage a food fight, trample a formal festive spread. But the film is bookended by documentary footage of war, reminding us of the worse things that happen in the male-directed world. The Czech government, feeling its ox gored, promptly banned the film.

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