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  Daisies Free Your Mind
Year: 1966
Director: Vera Chytilová
Stars: Jitka Cerhová, Ivana Karbanová, Julius Albert, Marie Cesková, Jan Klusák, V. Mysková
Genre: Comedy, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Two girls, both named Marie (Jitka Cerhová and Ivana Karbanová) are at a loss with what to do with themselves and wonder which path to take in a ruined world. Then they are struck with a notion: they will be bad and so embark on an adventure where they can cause as much mayhem as they can. As part of this, they decide to exploit middle aged men and as such accompany them to a restaurant where they eat as much food as possible while making their male companions as uncomfortable as possible. Then, when the meal is over, the girls see them off at a railway station, all ready to move onto their next victim. Being bad seems to be a lot of fun, but will it last? Will they have to change their ways or be punished?

Daisies, or Sedmikrasky as it was originally called, was one of the innovative films written and directed by Czech New Wave proponent Vera Chytilová, made at the time of an increasing liberalism in the culture of Czechoslovakia, which as we know now, wouldn't last. Nevertheless, the sheer exuberance of her film spoke to the era's young people around the world, once its ban imposed by the Czech authorities had been lifted and the film was able to be seen widely. And it was obvious why those authorities hadn't liked it as the main characters are gleefully rebellious, flying in the face of convention and doing as they pleased for 99% of the opus.

There's not really a story as such, it's more of a succession of surreal episodes, the meaning of which can be interpreted in many ways. The image changes from full colour to monochrome and back again without rhyme or reason, primitive animation techniques and sound effects like typewriters or ticking clocks are used, and there are a few clever camera tricks to be admired, most notably when the girls start cutting each other up with scissors and the screen is filled with a kaleidoscope of their body parts. What they are rebelling against could be anything from male oppression to government oppression to consumerist oppression, yet it could be simply age pitted against youth or freedom rivalling war (of which there is much stock footage).

What is returned to again and again is the subject and depiction of food. From apples, lots of apples, some juggled with and others scattered around their bed, to a lavish banquet at the end that the two Maries launch themselves into and eventually descend into throwing at each other and smashing the glasses and crockery, food is an abiding theme. The two girls have infectious giggles as they make their merry way around the eateries, clubs and countryside, but there are quieter moments when they show remorse and reflect on, say, stealing from the bathroom attendant. It all ends abruptly, as if some higher power declared the Maries' chaotic but harmless antics deserved not only to stop, but to stop decisively. Although any meanings are very much open to interpretation, the overriding one seems to be that throwing yourself into life comes at a price, whether that's being "bad" or otherwise. Music by Jirí Slitr and Jirí Sust.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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