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The First Lady of Czech Cinema Věra Chytilová

1 – 17 March 2015, BFI Southbank London: A rebel, feminist and critic of contemporary society: some of the many labels attached to the leading lady of the 1960s Czech New Wave, Vera Chytilova. BFI Southbank in London is holding its first ever retrospective of her work in March 2015. An innovative filmmaker, best known for her experimental farce ‘Daisies’, Chytilova’s focus was on women rebelling against male-domination. She bravely and consistently applied her own moral vision to her work and was banned from making films by the Czechoslovak government.

“I was daring enough to want absolute freedom, even if it was a mistake.”
Věra Chytilová

Věra Chytilová, one of the most radical and innovative of directors to emerge in the 1960s, produced a remarkable body of work. The BFI Southbank retrospective explores her work by presenting ten seminal films that map her career.

Vera Chytilova (1929 - 2014)

Even during her interview for film school, Chytilova rebelled, claiming that contemporary cinema was too detached from reality and that she wanted to look for new ways of filming – a goal she later achieved in her cinéma-vérité- style films; A Bagful of Fleas (1962) and Ceiling (1962). Both films also introduced Chytilova’s main themes demonstrated across her whole career; the feminine point of view in a world dominated by men and a strong critique of contemporary society.

The pioneer of women’s cinema, Chytilova thought it natural to use her female perspective and experience, although she didn’t see herself as a feminist. Never one to hesitate, she played on stereotypes associated with women, exploiting the fear of feminine hysterics and famously threatening to jump out of the window in front of state officials when she struggled to get her unorthodox films financed or released.

However it was her masterpiece, the Dadaist farce, Daisies (1966) which so shocked the Czechoslovak government that it withheld its release for a whole year. And her most significant stylized work, The Fruit of Paradise (1968), enjoyed only a very limited release two years later.

Strong social criticism and experimental form, together with Chytilova’s active criticism of the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968, meant that she was banned from working. Choosing to stay in Czechoslovakia, “preferring to battle the system from within its confines”, she returned to work in 1976 with The Apple Game after writing a personal letter to the Czechoslovak president entitled “I want to work.” This film was shown only sporadically, a fate similar to her social satire attacking the communist bureaucracy Prefab Story (1979) and further pre-1989 films such as The Very Late Afternoon of a Faun (1983 and The Jester and the Queen (1987).



After the fall of Communism, Chytilova continued to uphold her strong moral stance. In her feminist comedy Traps, (1998), a prize-winner at the 1999 Venice Film Festival, she satirises the excesses of the new capitalism, while her outstanding Flights and Falls (2000) illustrates her strong interest in the documentary form particularly towards the end of her career.

This special BFI Southbank retrospective will open with an illustrated debate exploring Chytilova’s work, from her avant-garde early career to her role in women’s cinema. The debate will be led by the head of the Czech National Film Archive Michal Bregant. The exhibition Vera Chytilova & Jaroslav Kucera: The Fruit of Paradise, curated by Katerina Svatonova and designed by Zbynek Baladran, will complement the season documenting Chytilova’s craft.

Panel Story

The Fruit of Paradise



More information: www.bit.ly/vera_chytilova
Renata Clark, Czech Centre, clarkova@czechcentre.org.uk tel: 020 7759 0072
Special guest: Michal Bregant, Head of the Czech National Film Archive
For interviews with the visiting artist, images and other press enquiries please contact: Renata Clark, Czech Centre, clarkova@czechcentre.org.uk tel: 020 7759 0072
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CzechCentreLnd
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/londonczechcentre
Web: www.czechcentre.org.uk

BFI Press contact:
Liz Parkinson, Press Officer, BFI Southbank, liz.parkinson@bfi.org.uk / 020 7957 8918

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