By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: Girlfriends rebel from society.
Two young women (Ivana Karbanova, Jitka Cerhova) who are both named Marie decide that society has nothing to offer them and that they will not comply with its norms. They then proceed to jaunt through the streets of Prague causing havoc and destruction everywhere they go and with everyone they meet while also trying to find themselves and their true purpose in life.
This film is similar to Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, which was released the same year. Both films rely heavily on quick edits, jump cuts, bizarre imagery and unconventional narrative structures. The only difference is that at least Persona had a story behind it and two interesting characters. This film has neither. The two women behave too strangely to be relatable and the scenes seem disconnected. This is one film that takes the avant-garde, experimental approach to the most extreme. The result is a bit off-putting and took me until the halfway mark before I could get into it. Others may not even make it that far. Personal taste will gauge how much one gets into it as well as how much they get out of it.
On a completely visual level it is fascinating. The film goes from being black-and-white to color and then back again at random intervals. There is one scene in a restaurant where the scene changes to a different color filter each time a character speaks a different line of dialogue. The segment showing photos of a variety of butterflies done at a rapid fire pace is also interesting. The best part is probably near the end when the girls walk into a banquet hall and proceed to eat up all the food that is in it. In fact the film shows an amazing amount of eating. It seems like every other shot has the girls stuffing their mouths with some sort of edible. However, instead of making you hungry it ends up kind of grossing you out.
If there is anything that got on my nerves it was director Vera Chytilova’s use of sound. There was too much repetition of noises. For instance in the opening scene there is what sounds like a squeaking door that is implemented after each actress says her line that quickly becomes irritating. The slobbering, chewing sound as the girls eat the banquet food is overdone as is their background whispering that occurs near the end.
Many feel this is a movie about budding feminism and I would agree on that for the most part. I enjoyed how the women did not feel that they needed a man in their life to ‘be whole’ and in many ways seemed to manipulate and make fun of the male characters, or simply become bored with them especially when the men would convey to them their ‘undying love’. However, to me it was more about the rebelling and disdain of the communist regime and living in an environment that promoted hard work and not much else. I liked the segment at the end where the two women proceed to be ‘good’ instead of ‘bad’ and try to clean up the mess that they made while trying to convince themselves that working hard will make them happy even though it really doesn’t.
I’ve seen a lot of weird sixties movies, but this one tops them all by a mile. It certainly doesn’t seem dated and easily transcends its era. Not only was it ahead-of-its-time, but I would maintain that it STILL is.
Although the runtime is listed as being 74 minutes the version I saw, which was from Czech New Wave, came out to being only an hour.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: December 30, 1966
Director: Vera Chytilova