Visually caught between images of war and physically trapped in an authoritarian society, the new wave Czechoslovakian film ‘Daisies’ (or Sedmikrásky) offers a route out of the oppressive communist regime for the young 1960s feminist generation. Věra Chytilová experiments with a plethora of colours and illustrates the story of two teenage girls’,both named Marie, struggles to find the purpose of life in a world that is “going bad”. Upon the realisation that nobody understands them and “everything’s going bad”, the Maries decide to pursue a life of ‘badness’. They indulge in taboo activity such as wining and dining with older men, getting drunk and going on adventures, all of which amount to a brilliantly surreal food fight. ‘Daisies’ remains an incredible avant-garde piece of cinema that characterises the theme of intoxication to a T. The colours that initially drew me to the film fully challenge all of the contemporary societal expectations and offer a magical world of escapism from the harsh communist regime of the 1960s.
The beauty of the film comes down to its surrealist nature. Each scene is a piece of art; you could pause it anywhere and have a captivating still. Bizarre colourful experiments somehow work – a scene in which the filter changes colour every second could have resulted in confusion, but instead appears as a wonderfully psychedelic gift, acting as a metaphor for the excitement and innocence of the teenage girls’ minds. Chytilová merges vivid brights, soft pastels, neutral hues and sepia tones throughout the film. Complimented by the grand and sometimes obscure music, she is successful in creating a pleasantly intoxicating experience.
Some of the film is simply absurd. For example, there is one scene in which Marie II does “too much” to annoy Marie I, and they end up comically cutting each other’s limbs off. This all ends in a strange Dada influenced montage of flickering images. Further examples of scenes that play wonderfully with colour are the trippy iridescent railway journey and the banquet scene that starts in cool blue and white hues then switches to colour with a series of stop motion images.
Unsurprisingly, ‘Daisies’ was banned in Czechoslovakia in the 60s by the government because it explicitly depicts food wastage – although now it has been rumoured that the previous reason was simply a cover up for the banning the overtly sexual natured film. Whilst feminine sexuality is a key feature of the film, the way Chytilová deals with it is never crude. The presentation of sex is smart and humorous. Above all it is powerful. I mean, if it caused the government and authorities – both which would have been governed by men- to ban the film, it must have posed some sort of threat to their authority.
Chytilová is playful in her attempt in showing female influence over men as the two girls decide to go on numerous meals with different old men, causing them all heartbreak. There’s a another scene in which the girls nonchalantly cut up bananas gherkins and sausages with scissors whilst letting a date spill out his feelings on an ignored phone call. Whist the director has denied that ‘Daisies’ is a feminist film, the act of cutting up phallic objects certainly implies it. This act continues to add to brilliantly blasé and mischievous personas’ of the heroines and their dark humour.
Chytilová also uses visual objects to present different aspects of sex. She uses the titillating image of the peach in the first ten minutes to present temptation, possessing strong religious connotations. She extends this symbol further with the snapshot of the floral wreath and the green apples in the water – representing virginity and temptation and resultant sin, respectively.
I find the banning of this film especially interesting, as my Grandma was part of the target audience; an 18-year-old Slovak girl who wanted to get out of an oppressive communist society. I’d be interested to see if she has even heard of the film, let alone seen it. Right now I’m imagining her and her friends packing into an underground cinema, ready to watch a visual feast of colour that they had never seen before (trust me, the buildings left over from the communist days are pretty bleak and grey) and being inspired to do something badass and out of governmental control.
‘Daisies’ encompasses all that was controversial at the time, which is why it is still so timeless and accessible today. The theme of rebelling, fighting for a better life, and living in a dream world all play a big part in modern day society. The vivid colours and surreal aesthetics draw in a new generation and help bring to life the contemporary problems of the 60s. The film is about having fun, exploring and questioning the life that has been laid out for you. It is about not settling for the norm, but rather creating your own exciting journey and learning to become a better person along the way.