When Daisies Smashed the Patriarchy
The post Second World War life in Czechoslovakia was filled with distress due to its repressive communist government. The Prague Spring which took place in 1968, meant a liberalization in the economy, censorship, etc. But soon after its democratic actions, the Soviet Union halted them by invading the country aiming to bring back the economical and social values that had prevailed before the Spring. Given this brief description of how oppressive the czechoslovakian society was, let’s focus on its revolutionary cinema of the 60s. Some filmmakers intended to show through their movies, how their society was being manipulated and tortured by the government. There’s one, in particular, that captured this in such an incisive way that her works have changed cinema profoundly. The female director Vera Chytilová launched her most imposing movie in 1966, before the Prague Spring and in the height of a government that restrained the freedom of artists. Sedmikrásky or Daisies, tells the story of two young and witty girls that wander around in order to experience new things and they are never satisfied with what they find. We don’t get to know whether they are sisters or friends but their friendship is so strong that it reminds us of the social construction of female rivalry. This movie is a great representation of what sorority looks like. The young girls’ dialogs contain words of protest. They wonder if they are spoiled for doing whatever they want to. They wonder if they really exist. What they are sure of is that the world has gone wrong and although they laugh at things all the time, their statements are not silly or naive. Our protagonists criticize their oppressors through allegories. When one of them hangs out to a fancy restaurant with a sugar daddy, the other comes along just to eat as much as she can,and yet, she doesn’t get enough and that one never seals her date. In other perspective, this can be seen as a metaphor to the incomplete sense of wholeness before a system that doesn’t satisfy the society, leading them to starve for freedom, to undo their imposed roles of being compromised with who is in power. The girls lay on bed eating and cutting fruits and vegetables that resemble masculine organs and ignore calls from men who are in love with them. This satire is so relevant. The sexual connotation is a feminist statement of women who don’t sexualize themselves in order to please men. They are not even thinking about it, they want to tell you that what you see on the screen is a different representation of women, it’s a break from expected sexual roles.
Despite being considered a feminist film, Vera Chytilová claimed it to be an individualist work . This means that these girls are trying things out in order to feel that they exist, that they can be free in a place which standardizes identities, especially women’s. There’s one scene in which the girls play with collage of their bodies, of magazine pictures. They cut each other’s body parts and they float around the room. This body awareness is one more existencial statement made by the filmmaker. Not only the girls are experiencing freedom, Chytilová explores different colors and techniques which scape from the traditional forms of filming. Daisies comes to its climax when the girls smash the patriarchy! It’s a symbolic way to understand the scene in which the young girls enter in a huge and juicy feast, the guests haven’t arrived yet, and they dance over the food, break the plates and smash all that is in front of them. They smash what represents patriarchy, men ruling a country through moral authority and social privilege that gives no chance to those who are not in the upper class. When they notice the damage they have just done, a narrator, Vera herself, incorporates an authoritarian voice which demands the girls to clean up all the mess. “We will do everything and we’ll be good, happy and beautiful” say the girls as they try to fix what they have caused. And what they have caused is not just a mere rebellious act. Our protagonists destroyed their oppressors, a goal that is so unrealistic and dangerous to achieve that the girls were controlled by the system and ended up displaying a submissive role.
Daisies resulted in a distress to the Czech government which banned it for a long time. They claimed that lots of food was wasted. Vera ends her movie mentioning this episode but she has already set us to reflect on the fact that food wasn’t really what bothered the communist party.