Daisies was made in 1966 by the Czech filmmaker Věra Chytilová and was considered a key film of the Czech New Wave. It was banned in 1968 shortly after the “Prague Spring” by the Soviet Communist regime, as was Chytilová from making any new films in Czechoslovakia until 1975.
The Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact stopped the creative and social freedoms of “Prague Spring” when they decided to invade Czechoslovakia in the summer of 1968. Therefore, many Czechoslovakian artists’ reactions were to employ metaphors, humour, and radical narrative play to express the dangers and hypocrisies of life under a repressive regime. In order to make subversive political statements, ambiguity was a necessity.
Daisies depicts the two female protagonists Marie and Marie, who are claiming that the world is “bad” and therefore they will be too.
The story is structured with a non-linear narrative, and via jump cuts we are thrown between incoherent scenes, never quite knowing what will come next. The film consists of montages of contradictory imagery, a baffling dialogue, asynchronous sound, colours that change from full to monochrome to psychedelic, anti-naturalistic optical effects and sudden accelerated motion.
The Maries want to go against the norms of society, and act out as they see fit. They do this when they date older men, get particularly drunk in a fancy nightclub and steal food, drinks or money from other people.
Many aspects of Daisies make it appear like a feminist film. The Maries are constantly sexually teasing older men, making them pay for expensive dinners only to send them away in trains afterwards. At one point the Maries cut up phallic-looking food with a pair of scissors and eat it. Many of the men they meet seem like symbols of the patriarchal society, and the Maries’ actions therefore become a symbol of how they “castrate” it.
The main thing the Maries like to do is to eat, and they do this in a manner that also goes against the norms of society. They eat almost all the time, and if not, they ask people for food or talk about it. They even seem to confuse the meaning of love with food, and they question why men do not simply say “egg” instead of “I love you”.
Daisies is a film with many possible interpretations, and Chytilová is concealing an important message underneath the veils of ambiguity. The veil Chytilová has chosen is highly Dadaist. With Daisies Chytilová challenges our conventional understanding of ourselves and the world we live in.
In a nod to the Maries’ challenge of societal norms, the final title of the film reads: “This film is dedicated to those who only get upset over a “messed-up trifle””. It is a stab at the passivity of the bourgeoisie society, underlining Chytilová’s belief that instead of being provoked by a step outside of the rigid borders of etiquette, they should be provoked by much more pressing issues such as the Soviet occupation, the constant threat of violence that follows with the occupation, destructions of war and the lack of freedom of speech.
Watch the trailer here: