Colors, so many colors, and food, let’s not forget the food!
Screenplay By: Vera Chytilová, Pavel Jurácek, & Ester Krumbachová
Directed By: Vera Chytilová
Subversive art can be hard to stomach, very hard to stomach. At least that’s the case for me, at times. I struggle sometimes when it comes to connecting with the subject that subversive art is going after. Often the subversive film is so specific in its target that I feel left out in the cold. Sedmikrásky is a different type of subversive film as it’s not specific in any sort of way. Vera Chytilová points her film at pretty much all facets of Czechoslovakia, and to a larger extent the male dominated world of the 1960s. Nothing is spared Paní Chytilová’s wrath as she wields her film like a deadly weapon against the things in Czech society that irk her. Oh, and before I forget to mention it, Sedmikrásky is very, very funny in addition to being well made.
Women are held up as automaton robots of some sort, or maybe even mannequin dolls to be more precise. Older Czech gentlemen are taken to task for being lecherous dolts who want to bleed the youth dry. Phallic imagery rules everything, and in order for women to gain power they must destroy said phallic imagery. There’s plenty of excess food to be found, yet it’s reserved for areas of high wealth. The whole world is spoiled, so what is one to do but join in and be spoiled themselves! Of course, when women decide to do this they are punished for their excess. They can’t be spoiled, only the male characters can be indulgent, and then in turn spoil the women of Czech society. The Communist state says that all are equal, but if there are riches to go to the spoiled then how can that really be the case?
The above paragraph is a smorgasbord of themes, ideas, philosophies, and feminist critique. I’ve given it to you all in one giant glob because that’s similar to what Sedmikrásky does. In a very short hour and thirteen minute run time the film manages to pack in enough social commentary to fill a four hour bloated epic. Paní Chytilová doesn’t shortchange any of the areas the film wants to explore, length be damned. She fully explores every idea in a frank way that I can understand being off putting to a very restrictive Czech society in the 1960s. Her film may only spend a couple of minutes destroying phallic imagery in the form of sausages and bread sticks, but Paní Chytilová uses that time to make her point completely.
The visual presentation of Sedmikrásky is really something to behold. The film switches back and forth between black & white, color, sepia tones, matching colors, off base colors, grainy stock, clear imagery, and so on and so forth. Paní Chytilová also makes great use of dissonant sounds to highlight the comedic actions of her characters as well as their displacement within society. On the surface Sedmikrásky may seem like it’s a lot of splash and technique being thrown at the screen. There is a reason behind the splashiness and the techniques being used, and they add a level of technical proficiency to the construction of the film that I welcomed with open arms.
As I said at the start of this review I’m not always the best at falling in love with subversive cinema. I did, however, really love Sedmikrásky, as much for its visual audacity as the content of its subversive themes. I dare say there aren’t many films out there like Sedmikrásky, and I definitely know I haven’t been exposed to many female directors that are as audacious as Paní Chytilová. Sedmikrásky is a unique film going experience, one that won’t be forgotten anytime soon by those who are lucky enough to share in the experience that is this Czechoslovakian provocateur.