Cut to ten years later, and the Criterion Collection has released the film on Blu-ray after Janus Films toured a brand new 4K restoration. Using the original camera and sound negatives, this absolutely stunning work was carried out in collaboration between the Národní filmový archiv, Prague, the Czech Film Fund, and the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (where earlier this year a gorgeous restoration of her 1970 film “Fruit of Paradise” was also screened).
Chytilová opens her film with bombed out footage from WWII with scenes of a cog turning. Militaristic drums announce the arrival of her protagonists: Marie (Ivana Karbanová) and Marie (Jitka Cerhová). Deciding that since “everything’s going bad in this world,” they might as well go bad too. What ensues is 76 minutes of pure rebellious chaos. From bilking men of industry for good food to disrupting reputable couples at a nightclub, the Maries commit to hedonistic pleasures, while trying to find signs of their own existence.
In one of the Blu-ray supplements, film programmer Irena Kovarova discusses how Chytilová “always wanted to get to the core of what a film’s theme is and for “Daisies” that theme is destruction.” This destruction—sometimes through setting fires, trampling crops, cutting each other up with scissors, and decimating an official banquet via the greatest food fight in all cinema—is contrasted by the rich colors of the girls’ world. Their bright dresses, the verdant greens of their apartment—designed by co-screenwriter Ester Krumbachová, pop more vibrantly in this restoration than any version previously available.
Other special features on this disc include an insightful 2004 documentary by Jasmina Blažević that features extensive interviews with Chytilová herself. Throughout the 55-minute doc, the director reveals she decided to attend the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU) because she didn’t like the rigidity of films being made by the establishment. “I wanted absolute freedom. Even if it were a mistake,” she recalls. Blažević mixes the interview footage of Chytilová with rare 16mm home movies shot by Chytilová’s then-husband and collaborator cinematographer Jaroslav Kučera. Anyone who loves the open candor of Agnès Varda towards the end of her career will find themselves charmed by Chytilová’s clear-eyed, and often mordant, examination of her own creative and personal life.