Vera Chytilova (1929) was a leader of the Czech new wave of the 1960s,
starting out with
depressing portraits of the female condition bordering on
the autobiographical short Strop/ Ceiling (1961) about a fashion model, her graduation project,
and the short
Pytel Blech/ A Bag of Fleas (1962), played by non-actors, about teenage girls living in a boarding school and learning to work in a textile factory.
Her first full-length feature was the black and white
O Necem Jinem/ Something Different (1963), which
interweaves the stories of two very different women:
a fictional film about a housewife and a documentary about
a real-world professional athlete (Eva Bosakova, who at the 1956 Olympic games became the first female gymnast ever to perform a cartwheel on the balance beam).
The way the two stories are juxtaposed creates a sense that both women are engaged in an exhausting balancing act.
One is enslaved by a selfish husband, the other one by her coach.
One's marriage is imploding while the other's career is ending.
Both have sacrificed their lives, and both end up condemned to a tedious routine.
It's a very elliptical way to discuss the fate of women in society.
The film opens with footage about a gymnast. The camera moves back and
we see that a child, Milda, is watching it on television.
The mother, Vera, grabs him and takes him to say goodnight to the dinner guests.
We then see the gymnast taking a shower and a coach examining her
Back to the dinner trable, Vera and her husband are playing cards with
their friends Pepek and Jirka.
The friends leave, the couple goes to bed, and before falling asleep they
lament their poor finances.
Then we see Eva practicing at the gym.
In the morning Vera goes about her housewife chores, then dinner with husband and then reading fairy tales to help Milda fall asleep.
Then we're back at the gymn where Eva practice endlessly.
In the morning Vera repeats her routine: cleaning, watching Milda, cooking, etc.
And back to Eva's routine in the gym.
She's an aging gymnast at the end of her career.
One day even Milda gets annoyed that his father is always reading the newspaper, even over dinner. She reminds him that his work ends at a certain time whereas her work never ends.
Eva injures the ankle again trying to perform a saumersalt and she returns home
with her husband.
Vera complains to her husband that he never tells him anything about his work, and he simply opens the newspaper and starts reading.
In the morning we see her walking on the sidewalk and being followed by a man
on a motorcycle. We then see her leaving his apartment, implying that she
slept with him.
Equally frustrated is Eva, whose coach in the gym keeps asking her to try dangerous jumps. We see her giving an interview to a journalist. He suddenly
turns off the tape recorder because she is boring. While the photographer
takes pictures of her,
Eva confesses that she never had time to learn how to cook, that she had
postpone all the plans she had for her life, and that she's bored by her routines in the gym.
We then briefly see Vera on a date with her lover in a restaurant, but later
we see that she tells him she's frustrated because he doesn't understand her.
At the gym the coach is still pressuring Eva to perform dangerous jumps.
He even slaps her.
Meanwhile, Vera laughs at her lover's passion, he gets upset and she dumps him.
Eva is shown performing upside down as the camera flips around.
We then see Vera, her husband and their child playing in the snow.
Then they use the exact same table at the same restaurant where Vera was with
We finally see Vera performing at the competition, including the dangerous jump
(the camera shows it from the ceiling), and on the podium being awarded the top prize.
We then see Vera's husband confessing that he too is having an affair and asks her for a divorce.
Vera cries hysterically, grabs the child, and begs the husband not to leave them.
The camera shows a crowd walking in a square, viewed from the sky.
However, Vera's story ends showing us the family walking together in a park.
Eva's story ends with showing us that Eva has become a coach herself.
She then crafted the wildly chaotic and surrealist
Sedmikrasky/ Daisies (1966),
co-written with Ester Krumbachova and photographed by her husband Jaroslav Kucera.
While the titles roll, we see aerial images of bombings.
Then we see two young women in bikinis complaining that they cannot do
anything. One sticks a finger in her nose and the other one plays the trumpet.
Then we see documentary footage of a building collapsing.
One woman decides to behave like a virgin and wears a garland on her
The other one suggests that, since the whole world has gone bad, they should
go bad too.
They are catapulted in a field of flowers and dance around a colorful fruit
Then we see them in a bedroom, fighting on the bed for something that one of
them is chewing. The bedroom is shown in colors, but the street they see from
the window is shown in black and white.
They dress up and walk down stairs covered with a red carpet.
The film switches to black and white again.
The non-virgin has dinner with a middle-aged gentleman in a classy restaurant.
The virgin, introduced her a sister named Jarmila, sits uninvited at
their table and orders food, eating like a pig and ruining the evening of the man.
Meanwhile the color keeps changing (green lens, blue lens, red lens, etc).
They suddenly remember that the man has to catch a train and the two girls
accompany him to the station. At the station the non-virgin confesses to
the man that she has a boyfriend. The man and the non-virgin board the train
that is leaving but then the non-virgin jumps off.
The camera shows a train speeding through stations, a visual effect of
flashing violent colors.
Then we see the two girls in a cabaret, over-enjoying the show of two dancers
(evoking the charleston era of Josephine Baker)
and drinking alcohol. The two girls get out of control, annoying the other customers and disrupting the show until they are kicked out.
Back at the apartment, they behave like pranksters.
They have an argument and Jarmila walks out.
The other one activates a metronomic mechanism that somehow generates the
first ("bikini") scene of the film
Then they are back at the restaurant with another middle-aged man,
and again they order a lot of food. Again they accompany him to the station
and he cries when the train leaves.
Then we see Jarmila in the apartment of a pianist who has a collection of butterflies.
He is madly in love with her (he calls her "Julie"), she strips naked and covers her breasts and crotch with butterflies, and then she asks for food.
Then we see the two girls in a bathroom where the
female bathroom attendant insists on making coffee for them.
While they wait, they steal the tips that the attendant keeps in a drawer.
They pride themselves in being bad.
Back at their apartment they set on fire food that they hung on wires over the bed. While they eat some of the roasted vegetables, eggs and sausage, the butterfly collector calls and declares his love for "Julie".
Jarmila confesses to the other that she doesn't know the name of the man.
Every now and then we see again the "bikini" scene.
Then we see them having dinner with a much older man.
(Jarmila calls the nonvirgin "Marcelka").
Again, they order a lot of food and accompany him to the train station.
This time, however, the man gets off when they do, and then they board again the moving train, leaving the man behind.
We then see them walking along the railway at night, their faces all black.
The walls of their apartment are littered with dozens of names and phone numbers of men
Hansel rings the doorbell and begs "Marie" to let him in, but Marcelka makes fun of him and doesn't open. In the background we hear the noise of a typewriter.
Then we see them in bikinis drinking by a river, in a melancholy mood.
Then in a restaurant after all the other customers have left.
Then smoking in the bathroom.
Back home they fill a tub with milk and then lie inside.
Then we see them back in the bathroom of the attendant, getting ready to go out.
They walk out imitating robots.
They roll down a hill and, after playing silly games, they stare at a gardener
who doesn't see them.
They steal corn. A group of bicylists passes by and ignores them.
Jarmila is afraid they have become invisible.
Back home they play in bed while we see a collage of photos.
Then Jarmila grabs scissors and cuts the other's clothes.
The other grabs the scissors and cuts an arm off Jarmila.
Jarmila cuts the other's head. And this becomes a frenzied duel
until the screen is just a collage of abstract objects.
Nonetheless, they are soon frolicking around. They squeeze into a food elevator
and reach a floor where they find a room ready for a banquet.
Nobody is there to stop them and they indulge in a food orgy, which then turns
into a food fight.
Then they dance on the table, one imitating an odalisque and one
imitating a stripper.
They climb on the chandelier and use it as a swing.
They dive and show up in the river. They almost drown and beg to be forgiven.
Rescued by unseen people, they return to the room and clean up their mess,
while mumbling that they don't want to be bad anymore.
They wrap themselves in newspapers and lie on the table.
Jarmila asks Marcelka to say that they are happy. Marcelka asks back if it's
The chandelier falls on them and we see documentary footage of bombings.
After the philosophycal parable Ovoce Stromu Rajských Jeme/ Fruit of Paradise (1969), a feminist retelling of the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, again scripted by Krumbachova and shot by Kucera, with music by Zdenek Liska,
she was unable to get funding for more films.
Finally she directed the simple comedy
Hra o Jablko/ The Apple Game (1976).
Panel aneb Jak se Rodi Sidliste/ Story from a Housing Estate (1979), photographed by Jaromir Sofr,
is a tragicomic fresco of ordinary lives.
Kalamita/ Calamity (1982) is a minor comedy.
The light comedy Faunovo Velmi Pozdni Odpoledne/ The Very Late Afternoon of a Faun (1983) was another collaboration with Krumbachova, and another minor movie, despite cameraman Jan Malir.
The psychological thriller Vlci Bouda/ Wolf's Hole (1986), based on a story by Daniela Fischerova, starring Miroslav Machacek, photographed by Jaromir Sofr and with music by Michael Kocab, is a moral tale in diguise.
Sasek a Kralovna/ The Jester and the Queen (1987), based on Bolislav Polivka's play, is a minor comedy.
Kopytem Sem Kopytem Tam/ A Hoof Here a Hoof There (1989)
marked a return to form, a frenzied story about
apathic and nihilistic characters who indulge in free sex,
scripted by Pavel Skapik and photographed by Jaroslav Brabec.
Dedictvi aneb Kurvahošigutntag/ The Inheritance or Fuckoffguysgoodday (1992)
is a bizarre allegorical farce.
The revenge study
Pasti Pasti Pasticky/ Trap Trap Little Trap (1998) is almost a horror movie.
She returned to the Biblical theme of Adam and Eve in Vyhnani z Raje/ Exile from Paradise (2001).
Her last film was the tragicomedy
Hezke Chvilky bez Zaruky/ Pleasant Moments (2006).
She died in 2014.