Věra Chytilová Double Bill – DVD Review

Věra Chytilová remains one of the most unique voices in world cinema even if she only made Daisies (her best known film) but her work is only being discovered in English-speaking countries in recent years. Here Second Run has compiled two early works of Chytilová which show her development into one of the cinema’s greats. The films are the short A Bagful of Fleas and the feature-length Something Different.

The first film up is A Bagful of Fleas which is most stylistically closer to her late work like Daisies and Fruit of Paradise. It concerns a group of girls who work in a factory even if most of the scenes take place in a girls’ dormitory. Naturally one of the girls rebels against the conformity of the factory. The film’s release was held up for a year because the factory owners and authorities were not pleased with the depiction of the factory.

It uses a lot of voice-over which is the main character Eva’s voice and much of the action is off-screen. The use of music and visual inventiveness are hall-marks of what Chytilová would later perfect later in the ’60s and throughout her career. It is similar to some of the Miloš Forman films of the time but is more experimental in nature.

The feature presentation is Something Different which is a very fitting title. It juxtapositions two different stories one about a bored housewife and the other about a gymnast. It mixes documentary filmmaking with the gymnast story and narrative fiction with the housewife. It’s a daring mixture and she perfectly connects both stories by just the similarities and differences of the two woman. It style certainly predates the work of  Chantal Akerman who would make a career out of similar films.

Both films are fascinating insights into Věra Chytilová’s style which would be perfected when she became “the first lady” of the Czechoslovakian New Wave with Daisies and Fruit of Paradise. A Bagful of Fleas also was an early controversy in a career where despite enormous pressure to move from her homeland like his other filmmakers she stuck it out even if she wasn’t allowed to make many films. The disc doesn’t include any features but there is booklet included which has writings by Peter Hames.


Ian Schultz

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