KITTENING AROUND WITH DAISIES (1966) & CZECH NEW WAVE CINEMA
Lost in the depths of the YouTube rabbit hole, Nicole first stumbled upon Daisies, a whisker-tingling Czech New Wave film that “fits exactly with what it means to be a kitten."
She introduced me to the film months later when we met up in Barcelona and acted out our own version of Daisies, which we affectionately called/call The Kitten Life.
Daisies is a movie about presence. The two main characters, Marie and Marie, appear as present and engaged with every act of debauchery, boredom, playfulness they set their minds to. They are not stereotypical female secondary characters: they do not act in response to the actions of a male lead, nor are they are not passive deliverers of throwaway lines.
They lead men on, they turn men down, seemingly at random. They play the tempting, often abusing their femininity, but also the tempted, allowing the prospect of some simple distraction to capture their attention for a moment.
They test what it means to be in the world, but they also have to clean up the messes they make.
After a massive food fight during which they are overtaken by sensual pleasure, they look around at the mess they've made and their spirits are instantly snuffed out by the reality they’ve created; or rather, their spirits evolve and reevaluate what it means to be conscious, what it means to have choice. And so they begin to clean it all up.
Věra Chytilová, the filmmaker and a leader of New Wave Czech Cinema, did not self-identify as a feminist. She says, ”If there's something you don't like, don't keep to the rules - break them. I'm an enemy of stupidity and simple-mindedness in both men and women and I have rid my living space of these traits.”
New Wave Cinema often breaks from any narrative that the audience assumes it will follow. Everyone’s narrative is different and Chytilovà fought in her work to show the world that it is a travesty to pigeon hole, to censor, to paint anyone or anything in black and white. We can assume different narratives throughout our lives - feminist, punk, activist, anti-establishment, environmentalist - and thus we would be remiss to think that our assumed roles, or the roles of our perceived opposers are unchangeable.
"Anyway, we are young, after all,” Marie says,” “We've got our whole life ahead of us!"
Daisies can be seen as existential commentary on the fleeting nature of forms, of time, of space, of gender roles.
Nothing is taken too, too seriously because our dear Maries know that everything changes. The scene changes in colour, spirit, action, direction, backdrop, and they go with it with open hearts and minds. They also know that they know very little in the big scheme of things. How can you take anything seriously when we live in a world of shifting and dissolving forms? All you can do is learn, move forward and try to do better; and learn and move forward and try to do better.
You can watch the full film here: