The Surreal Wackiness of 'Daisies'

Daisies’ concept is simple: two girls, both named Marie, contemplate the spoiled state of the world, and how everything is going very badly, and decide to go bad themselves, and so, they embark on a series of pranks and mischiefs. The film opens with a black-and-white scene of the two Marie’s, taking turns discussing the depressive state of life in a very robotic and stiff manner, and every time they move their hands, there’s the annoying sound of a creaking door, and upon deciding that since the world is spoiled, they will be as well, the film cuts to a scene shot in color of them dancing around a tree that resembles the one Eve eats from in the biblical story; they too eat the apples and find themselves in the world again with their new resolve to spread havoc.

I wish there was some pattern or consistency to Daisies that I could identify and discuss, but there is really none whatsoever, and that is what makes it the wonderful film it is: this little piece of surrealist cinema is like doing acid without actually having to do acid. Aside from the absurd chain of events the film possesses, which I will get to in a bit, every other aspect of the film other way to say it: bonkers. A scene in gorgeous color, followed immediately by one in black-and-white, then multiple in tinted frames, then still photography, then surrealist mashups, Daisies utilizes just about everything that cinema as a medium has to tell its stories, but all at once; a million techniques collide in a swirl of hypnotic inconsistency and fascinating weirdness.

Daisies feels like a Marx Brothers comedy from the 1930’s meets David Lynch at his weirdest: humorous, silly and juvenile but also bizarre, strange and dreamlike. Their first rebellious act is going out with older men, eating a lot of food and having a lot of fun while also mocking their dates beyond their patience before ditching the men at a train station...and repeat; this sequence is one of the most fun of the entire movie in the way that it highlights the youthful defiant spirit of the two young girl while also mocking the pretentious manners and morals of society: the men, who are well over fifty, want a fun time with the two young girls, but it is them that get to have fun in the end, their own sort of fun. The scenes that follow are of a younger man attempting to seduce Marie to bed with a long fake declaration of love, interrupted by his outrage at her teasing him: he collects butterflies which she uses to teasingly hide her body with as he tries to control his rage, a caricatural portrayal of the very wanton lust Daisies was accused for in 1960’s Czechoslovakia, and ultimately, banned for.

On a first viewing, the audience might miss the film’s subtext and themes in the midst of all the surreal wackiness, and that is to be expected, concentrating on deeper meanings can prove challenging when Daisies is throwing a million images and sounds incoherently at you. But take another look at it, and you find that the film deals with very important themes, absurdly and farcically granted, but it deals with them nonetheless. Youth of course is the prominent theme, and even though it is portrayed through the act of rebelliousness, Marie’s’ acts always remain entertaining and laughable, and most importantly, never succumb to gloomy wickedness. 

Alongside its debate over what it means to “be young”, the film discusses bigger ideas of existence and happiness, and if the two can be connected in any way. To the film’s protagonists, being means a natural quest for happiness, and when it proves hard to find in a spoiled world, they search for it the hard way, which in a way, justifies their action. The film ends on a bittersweet note, the duo eventually find that happiness can’t even be found in the chaos they created, and so we see them attempting to clean up and fix things, and failing; the extremes never hold the answers, and they finally find solace in the middle.

Věra Chytilová’s 1966 film became an emblem of the Czech New Wave; its wacky story, childlike performances, and avant-garde delivery and surrealist disorder make for one of the weirdest, funniest and most enjoyable movies of the entire movement.


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