Daisies ★★★★★

Daisies is my favorite film, so I'm going to do this review in two sections. I'm going to spend the first paragraph telling you why you should see the film; don't read the rest until you have, and hopefully I'll be convincing enough that you'll spend the next 70 minutes watching it. The rest of the review will explore why this film is my favorite.

Daisies is fun. It's about having fun and the film itself encompasses fun. The editing is playful and represents a gleeful anarchy; the movie knows it's a movie, so it plays with the boundaries of the medium. The plot is simple; the movie can be described as a film about two hot girls eating food. It pops off the screen with creative costuming and lots of colour. The sound track is one of the best of all time; it increases the comedy and makes the movie feel more epic than it strives for. Most importantly of all: it's a perfectly sized piece of cake, it never drags and doesn't take up a lot of time. There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn't watch it right now.

Daisies was one of the first films to emerge from the Czechoslovakian New Wave, which consisted of a lot of unique and interesting approaches to film making (whether it be the surrealism of Valerie and Her Week of Wonders or the political satire of The Report of the Party and Guests). The Czech New Wave was all about challenging the boundaries of film, and the boundaries of the Soviet system. These films are very critical of the political situation in Eastern Europe, and a satirical edge exists in all of the films, whether purposeful or not. Daisies on its surface doesn't appear political at all, but beneath its candy-sweet surface it's commenting a lot on the restrictions of the Soviet system.

The movie is the best example of the Dada aesthetic on film. The movie is anarchic and surreal, with a clear focus on presenting images the viewer hasn't seen before. Chytilova uses effects such as coloured filters and non-fidelity sounds to disorient the viewer, causing them to consider the purpose of sound and colour within a film, which gives her the ability to re-structure the audience's understanding of film itself. The purposes of sequential editing and sound fidelity are brought into question through these types of techniques, and by the time the scissor fight starts the audience is fully on-board with Chytilova's school of film technique.

Daisies utilizes its characters' silliness to comment on film norms. The characters know that they are in a movie, so they constantly use this to shift their reality in their favour. A scissor fight with no consequences, all the food they can eat, they even become invisible to other people. The no-rules characters encompass the anything-goes aesthetic of the film, and allow for some incredibly cool editing techniques. I already commented on the shifting colour filters and the scissor-fight done through split screens, but my favorite is probably the visual collages that rush by in seconds and without warning. A single frame for every butterfly hung un the butterfly collection, a sped up ride on a train; these are the essence of the movie: beautiful artistic snapshots that both encompass true aesthetic appeal and push the expectations one has for a film.

Moving past the aesthetic appeal of the film, the film can be read from two political angles. The first is that the girls, Marie I and Marie II, represent the oppressed youth that are trying to find their own system, but they are eventually punished for going against the base ideals of communism. Marie I and Marie II steal their way to be gluttonous and selfish, and they don't care about how their actions could affect others. They are rude, and toy with others to get what they want, whether that be food, sex, or just to fuel their hedonistic existence. At the end of the film they are presented with the mother load of indulgence: an entire dinner feast. They go about eating, wasting, and finally destroy the elegant feast (which stands in for the feast of the Soviet leaders, who have gorged themselves at the expense of the common people); they take the feast away from the people with power and claim it for themselves. The movie takes a strange turn though, as now that they are on top, the girls no longer have anyone to rebel against, so they attempt to put things back the way they were, but prove unsuccessful. The film ends with the two girls being punished for their indulge and gluttony, drowning in a lake, while a title appears to dedicate the film to "Those who have cried over trampled lettuce".

I enjoy this interpretation of the film, since it makes the girls feel more like the anarchic heroes of the piece. However, I think that it is better to read the film in a way that paints Marie I and Marie II as Lenin and Stalin. The girls are incredibly selfish and steal from both the rich and poor, leading people on and lying so that they can get everything they want. Their indulgences are the disgusting consumption of the Soviet Union and its expansion at the cost of human life and resources. The two Maries destroy and consume the entire bourgeois feast at the end (right after taking corn from working-class farmers) and this stands in for the Soviet goal of eating the West. At the end they have eaten everything, and feel regret for the first time, only because they have nothing else to eat. The film ends by punishing them for their indulgence, holding the belief that a system like the Soviet Union cannot last forever, and that eventually those in power will be punished for their wrongdoings.

That's a mouthful right there, and that isn't everything I have to say about this incredible film. I haven't commented on the feminist angle at all, and how the two Maries use their feminine strengths to exploit men for their own benefit, or the young-old dichotomy expressed by the film, in that the youth fight the old only to become the old themselves. For a 70 minute film, there are so many incredible things being said and done. Daisies comes together as a perfect mixture of style and substance, with innovative techniques in both its form and narrative. I could not give this film enough praise, as it forever challenged and changed my concept of film as a medium. This is the perfect film.

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