Daisies (1966) is an aesthetically-stunning, mischievous journey of two young women frolicking through life and indulging in the fullest. After surmising that the world has been “spoiled,” the two impeccably dressed friends set out to reek havoc everywhere they go and eat and drink everything they see. Directed by Vera Chytilova, the first Czech director, the film was truly a force of female creativity in a time that sought to constrict such creativity. I wish I had seen a movie like Daisies when I was growing up to teach me to experiment, question, and be a little raucous. However, the film Daisies could not be more obscure to young women today. Part of the New Wave film movement of communist Czechoslovakia in the 60s, the film at first seems as far removed from today’s notions of liberation and feminism, but after watching this film it becomes obvious that the film deconstructs femininity and smashed social conventions.
What first seems to be an innocent psychedelic, aesthetic film characteristic of the 60s turns out to be a raging feminist film, as the two friends humiliate older male suitors and turn a first-class buffet into a catwalk. The two friends (Ivana Karbanova and Jitka Cerhova) subvert the powers around them to bring attention to themselves and the absurdity of social conventions, such as when they upstage performers at a night club. The girls aren’t completely depraved though. After the worst of their antics of destroying a huge banquet in a high class mansion, they attempt to put all the pieces back together again despite daunting task.
The first scene sets the tone of the film: the two friends frolic in an Eden-like paradise and cheerfully gorge on apples beneath a tree. The film rewrites biblical history, suggesting that the fall from grace into original sin wasn’t humankind’s greatest mistake, but its greatest step toward liberation. For the rest of the film, the girls have a child-like innocence that guides them to do whatever they want, something that is not possible for women then or today.
Even more impressive than the beautifully rebellious antics of the two friends is the condition in which the film was made. According to an article in the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/01/movies/daisies-from-the-czech-director-vera-chytilova-at-bam.html, it took a year for director Chytilova to persuade the government to let her start shooting. Members of the soviet government petitioned to destroy the film and banned it from theaters and export. It is truly a feat that the film is now not only available to modern audiences, but praised by critics.
This film can remind us today that the female voice is a powerful one, capable of facing a communist government. Throughout the film is a feeling of disruption and destruction, but Chytilova argues that creativity is not possible without destruction. When the society we live in is a systematically misogynist institution (looking at you Trump administration), destruction is a source of liberation. Daisies is a reminder for women today to fuck shit up, question what is expected of us, and to never be limited.