Eat Me: Vera Chytilová's Daisies
Vera Chytilová's anarchic 1966 feature Daisies opens today for a week-long run (in a new print) at BAMcinématek (before traveling to L.A. and elsewhere). Forthwith a few images from—and thoughts about—an eye-popping film of the Czech New Wave.
While they undoubtedly conjure associations with Eden and forbidden knowledge, apples in Czech culture are associated with good luck, and frequently appear in kraj, Easter egg, and needlepoint designs. (A Czech Christmas dinner tradition involves everyone slicing an apple down the middle. If the core is shaped like a star, it's good luck; if it has four points, it means someone at the table will die within the next year.)
Throughout the film, the two Maries eat to excess, usually at the expense of an older man who's trying to bed them. Their unapologetic gluttony is not only an affront to traditional images of femininity, but also reveals how certain systems can be turned to an individual's advantage.
The frenetic visuals and varied formal techniques in Daisies evoke collage, a beloved practice of Surrealists like Kurt Schwitters and Hannah Höch. In this sequence, what Chytilová is doing as a director is mirrored by her anarchic characters. Oh yeah, and there's probably something about castration anxiety here too.
The ambiguous final titles read: “This film is dedicated to those who get upset only over a stomped-upon bed of lettuce.”