Věra ChytilovÁ - Director





Nationality: Czech. Born: Ostrava, 2 February 1929. Education: Studied architecture at Charles University; Film Academy (FAMU), Prague, 1957–62. Family: Married cinematographer Jaroslav Kučera. Career: Assistant director on 3 Men Missing (Ztracenci), 1956; directed first film, Strop , 1962; forbidden to direct or work for foreign producers, 1969–76. Address: c/o Barrandov Studios, Prague, Czechoslovakia.


Films as Director:

1962

Strop ( The Ceiling ) (+ sc); Pytel blech ( A Bag of Fleas ) (+ sc)

1963

O něčem jiném ( Something Different ; Something Else ; Another Way of Life ) (+ sc)

1965

"Automat Sv ě t" (The World Cafe) segment of Perličky na dně ( Pearls of the Deep ) (+ co-sc)

1966

Sedmikrásky ( Daisies ) (+ co-sc)

1969

Ovoce strom rajských jíme ( The Fruit of Paradise ; The Fruit of the Trees of Paradise ) (+ co-sc)

1977

The Apple Game (+ sc)

1979

Panelstory ( Prefab Story ) (+ co-sc)

1980

Kalamita ( Calamity ) (+ co-sc)

1981

Chytilova versus Forman

1983

Faunovo prilis pozdni odpoledne ( The Very Late Afternoon of a Faun )

1985

Praha, neklidne srace Europy ( Prague, the Restless Heart of Europe ) (short)

1986

Vlci bouda ( Wolf's Hole )

1987

Sasek a kralovna ( The Jester and the Queen ); Kopytem Sem, Kopytem Tam ( Tainted Horseplay ) (+ sc)

1991

Mi Prazane me Rozùmeji ( My Praguers Understand Me )

1990

T.G.M.—Osvoboditel ( Tomas G. Masaryk—The Liberator ) (+ sc)

1992

Dedictví aneb Kurvahosigutntag ( The Legacy )

1993

Kam Parenky ; The Inheritance of Fuckoffguysgoodbye (+ sc)

1998

Pasti, pasti, pasticky ( Trap, Trap, Little Trap ) (+ co-sc)

1986

Vzlety a pády



Other Films:

1958

Konec jasnovidce ( End of a Clairvoyant ) (role as girl in bikini)

1991

Face of Hope (sc)



Publications


By CHYTILOVÁ: articles—

"Neznám opravdový čin, který by nebyl riskantní" [I Don't Know Any Action That Would Not Be Risky], an interview with Galina Kopaněvová, in Film a doba (Prague), no. 1, 1963.

"Režijní explikace k filmu O něčem jiném " [The Director's Comments on Something Different ], in Film a Doba (Prague), no. 1, 1964.

" Sedmikrásky : režijní explikace" [ Daisies : The Directress Comments], in Film a Doba (Prague), no. 4, 1966.

Interview in New York Times , 12 March 1978.

"A Film Should Be a Little Flashlight," interview with H. Polt, in Take One (Montreal), November 1978.

Interview with H. Heberle and others, in Frauen & Film (Berlin), December 1978.

Interview with B. Eriksson-Vodakova, in Chaplin (Stockholm), vol. 27, no. 6, 1985.

Interview with Kateøina Pošová, in Film a Doba (Prague), June 1989.

Interview with Marie-Élisabeth Rouchy, in Télérama (Paris), 16 February 1994.


On CHYTILOVÁ: books—

Boček, Jaroslav, Modern Czechoslovak Film 1945–1965 , Prague, 1965.

Janoušek, Jiri, 3 Î , Prague, 1965.

Skvorecký, Josef, All the Bright Young Men and Women , Toronto, 1971.

Dewey, Langdon, Outline of Czechoslovakian Cinema , London, 1971.

Liehm, Antonin, Closely Watched Films , White Plains, New York, 1974.

Liehm, Mira, and Antonin Liehm, The Most Important Art: East European Film after 1945 , Berkeley, 1977.

Habova, Milada, and Jitka Vysekalova, editors, Czechoslovak Cinema , Prague, 1982.

Hames, Peter, The Czechoslovak New Wave , Berkeley, 1985.


On CHYTILOVÁ: articles—

Boček, Jaroslav, "Podobenství Věry Chytilové" [The Parable of Věra Chytilová], in Film a Doba (Prague), no. 11, 1966.

Hames, P., "The Return of Vera Chytilova," in Sight and Sound (London), no. 3, 1979.

Martinek, Karel, "Filmový svět Véry Chytilové" [The Film World of Věra Chytilová], in Film a Doba (Prague), no. 3, 1982.

Z na, Miroslav, and Vladimir Solecký, in Film a Doba (Prague), no. 5, 1982.

Benoit, O., "Dans la grisaille tcheque: Vera Chytilova," in Cinéma (Paris), May 1984.

Waller, E., in Skrien (Amsterdam), September-October 1984.

Manceau, Jean-Louis, "Vera Chytilova a Creteil," in Cinéma (Paris), 18 March 1987.

Quart, B., "Three Central European Women Directors Revisited," in Cineaste , vol. 19, no. 4, 1993.

Elley, Derek, " Dedictví aneb Kurvahosigutntag ( The Inheritance or Fuckoffguysgoodbye )," in Variety (New York), 22 February 1993.

Kristensson, Martin, "Nihilismens två ansikten. Tusenskönorna," in Filmrutan (Sundsvall), vol. 37, no. 4, 1994.

Blačejovský, Jaromír, "Sedmikrásky," in Iluminace (Prague), vol. 9, no. 1(25), 1997.


* * *


So far the only important woman director of the Czech cinema is Věra Chytilová, its most innovative and probably most controversial personality. She is the only contemporary Czech filmmaker to work in the Eisensteinian tradition. She combines didacticism with often daring experimentation, based in essence on montage. Disregarding

Věra Chytilová
Věra Chytilová
chronology and illustrative realism, she stresses the symbolic nature of images as well as visual and conceptual shock. Influenced to some extent also by cinema verité, particularly by its female representatives, and militantly feminist in her attitudes, she nevertheless made excellent use of the art of her husband, the cameraman Jaroslav Kučera, in her boldest venture to date, Daisies. This film, Chytilová's best known, is a dazzling display of montage, tinting, visual deformation, film trickery, color processing, etc.—a multifaceted tour de force which, among other things, is also a tribute to the classics of the cinema, from the Lumière Brothers to Chaplin and Abel Gance. It contains shots, scenes, and sequences that utilize the most characteristic techniques and motives of the masters. Daisies is Chytilová at her most formalist. In her later films, there is a noticeable shift towards realism. However, all the principles mentioned above still dominate the more narrative approach, and a combination of unusual camera angles, shots, etc., together with a bitterly sarcastic vision, lead to hardly less provocative shock effects.

The didactical content of these highly sophisticated and subtly formalist works of filmic art, as in Eisenstein, is naive and crude: young women should prefer "useful" vocations to "useless" ones ( The Ceiling ); extremes of being active and being inactive both result in frustration ( Something Different ); irresponsibility and recklessness lead to a bad end ( Daisies ); a sexual relationship is something serious, not just irresponsible amusement ( The Apple Game ); people should help each other ( Panel Story, The Calamity ). Given the fact that Chytilová has worked mostly under the conditions of an enforced and harshly repressive establishment, a natural explanation of this seeming incongruity offers itself: the "moral messages" of her films are simply libations that enable her, and her friends among the critics, to defend the unashamedly formalist films and the harshly satirical presentation of social reality they contain. This is corroborated by Chytilová's many clashes with the political authorities in Czechoslovakia: from an interpellation in the Parliament calling for a ban of Daisies because so much food—"the fruit of the work of our toiling farmers"—is destroyed in the film, to her being fired from the Barrandov studios after the Soviet invasion in 1968, and on to her open letter to President Husák printed in Western newspapers. In each instance she won her case by a combination of publicly stated kosher ideological arguments, stressing the alleged "messages" of her works, and of backstage manipulation, not excluding the use of her considerable feminine charm. Consequently, she is the only one from among the new wave of directors from the 1960s who, for a long time, had been able to continue making films in Czechoslovakia without compromising her aesthetic creed and her vision of society, as so many others had to do in order to remain in business (including Jaromil Jireš, Hynek Bočan, Jaroslav Papoušek, and to some extent Jiří Menzel).

Panel Story and Calamity earned her hateful attacks from establishment critics and intrigues from her second-rate colleagues, who are thriving on the absence of competition from such exiled or banned directors as Miloš Forman, Ivan Passer, Jan Němec, Evald Schorm, and Vojtěch Jasný. The two films were practically withdrawn from circulation and can be occasionally seen only in suburban theatres. The only critical film periodical, Film a doba , published, in 1982, a series of three articles which, in veiled terms and using what playwright Václav Havel calls "dialectical metaphysics" ("on the one hand it is bad, but on the other hand it is also good"), defended the director and her right to remain herself. In her integrity, artistic boldness, and originality, and in her ability to survive the most destructive social and political catastrophes, Chytilová was a unique phenomenon in post-invasion Czech cinema. Unfortunately, during the last years of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, she seems to have lost something of her touch, and her latest films—such as The Very Late Afternoon of a Faun or The Jester and the Queen —are clearly not on the level of Daisies or Panel Story. Since the "velvet revolution" she has maintained her independence as idiosyncratically as ever. Refusing to take up any comfortably accommodating position, she has been accused of nostalgia for the Communist years. This would be to misrepresent her position. A fierce campaigner for a state subsidy for the Czech film industry, she cannot but lament the extent to which the implementation of the ideology of the "free market" has been allowed to accomplish what the Soviet regime never quite could—the extinguishing of Czech film culture.

She has made a number of documentary films for television as well as a 1992 comedy about the deleterious effects of sudden wealth, which was publicly well received but met with critical opprobrium. She has so far failed to find funding for a long-cherished project, Face of Hope , about the nineteenth-century humanist writer Bozena Nemcova. The continuing relevance of Daisies , and its depiction of philistinism in several registers, is surely the strongest argument in support of Chytilová's position. It is a film that shines with the sheer craftsmanship Czech cinema achieved in those years.

—Josef Skvorecký, updated by Verina Glaessner



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