Loïc Magnien Street Photography The Photography of Daisies 11

The Photography of Daisies

Daisies (1966) is a movie by Vera Chytilova that could be defined as abstract,  infantile and perhaps intellectual? I watched it on the roof top of a friend in East London after being recommended by that Czech patriot! We had a wonderful time with a proper BBQ and the projection was a quite immersive experience.

Daisies belongs to the Czechoslovak New Wave but in my opinion, is hasn’t that much in common with the other films of that wave except the rejection of traditional 3 act plot and the somewhat aesthetics of the socialist times. The film is a combination of very raw images with jump cuts, abstract and playful situations, very infantile and can trigger some good exhilaration.

I started writing this post and tried to remember the message of the film, and… my memory failed me. I can remember the colours, intentional mismatch and jump cuts, random pictorial inserts, music, repeated sound effects, all the filters applied on the film, black and white, black and white and colour filters. All I remembered was the aesthetics after a week. Nothing of the meaning was left. I would tag it with ‘contemplative’ in my iTunes library.

I understand this is a film which was made back in the 70’s for visual pleasure and narrative cinema. Probably a really good material to discuss on breaking away conventions but the debate might end up on whether feminist filmmaking is didactic and intellectual. Daisies confuses identification with objectification and paranoia with sadism. Nothing new for that time.

The main characters are two girls in their early twenties, they are given no clear name but numbered. They are bored, act mechanically as suggest the creaking sounds of the opening scene.

They tell each other that as the world is bad, they need to be bad in return. Being bad meaning acting anti-social, complaining, never agree, date old married men to fancy restaurants. The men would buy expensive meals and drinks, enjoying their short skirts in return.

There is one scene which is takes way too much place in the movie, the banquet scene. it requires 25 minutes to trash a banquet, get stuffed with a portion of every dish before smashing everything at themselves and swinging the chandelier. This scene is too long for many reasons but among the principals, (1) there has already been food for 40 minutes in this movies, seriously, it’s all about food, all the time and (2) it’s less contemplative than any other scene involving savage acts.

Nevertheless I have learnt few things in terms of composition and photography. The number one is how to break the rhythm of a scene and change it from playfulness to boredom with one headshot and a crop:

The number two is how to use the same colour palette to show disgust and boredom in a first time by only using blue/green and leaving no other colour in the frame:

And re-using the same colour palette including a big amount of faded colours to show the playfulness and isolation of the main characters:

Everything the ladies do is infantile and destructive, they steal money and never spend it, they are negative and anti-social, waste every bit of food, they are unproductive. This later argument might be the reason why the film was denounced by the party authorities for wasting the budget and resources of the state and for insulting the people working in factories and construction sites. You know, production and socialism. This is one of the reason why this film became famous, a sort of Barbara Streisand effect.

The film is nothing radical but it is still a great film to watch as it shows how social malaise can motivate destructive actions. The film has to be taken as an ultra sugary doughnut with loads of preservative additive.