Czech Republic’s most famous female director passes away nearly 50 years after her career-making ‘Daisies’
The director and screenwriter Věra Chytilová, the first lady of Czech film, died today in Prague at the age of 85. Her family broke the news to the Czech News Agency (ČTK).
As a filmmaker, Chytilová already made news with her student films, Ceiling (Strop, 1961) and A Bagful of Fleas (Pytel blech, 1962), but it was her provocative 1966 film Daisies (Sedmikrásky) that made her a household name in then-Czechoslovakia, even at the height of the otherwise male-dominated Czech New Wave that included such luminary figures as Miloš Forman and Jiří Menzel.
Over the years, Chytilová received numerous awards, including the French Order of Arts and Letters, the Czech Lion for longtime artistic contribution to Czech film and the State Medal for Merit.
Her films, full of satirical exaggeration, ruthlessly reflected the state of society and interpersonal relationships. Although her films after the Velvet Revolution did not achieve the same recognition as her works from previous years, she remained a critical, philosophical and sometimes controversial auteur.
“I met one of the greatest directors this country ever had,” actor Miroslav Donutil, whom Chytilová cast in two of her post-revolution films, Traps (Pasti, pasti, pasticky, 1998) and The Inheritance or Fuckoffguysgoodday (Dědictví aneb Kurvahošigutntág, 1993), told ČTK.
“She was a woman who had a great sense of humor, but also a perfect sense of order, although it did not always seem so,” Donutil added. “I loved her, I [still] love her, and I will never forget her.”
In the middle of working on the film The Fruits of Paradise (Ovoce stromů rajských jíme) in 1968, the occupation caught up with her, and she took a forced hiatus. When she finally made another film, eight years later in 1976, it was the bittersweet comedy The Apple Game (Hra o jablko).
Her work was again met with great success by audiences who took to her story about an aging dandy in The Very Late Afternoon of a Faun (Faunovo velmi pozdní odpoledne, 1983). She made seven more feature films before ending her directorial career in 2006 with the dark comedy Pleasant Moments (Hezké chvilky bez záruky).
However, in recent years, she also became involved in a number of documentaries, although she had directed almost two dozen since her early days as a student at Prague’s film school, FAMU. According to ČTK, it bothered her that the world hadn’t changed all that much after the fall of communism, that it still lacked compassion, and that morality is of marginal interest to society.