In the space between Batman v Superman guest-starring Wonder Woman and Captain America: Civil War guest-starring the entire MCU, Alex has reviewed some classic anime. Today we’re looking back at the most famous of early-1970s Czech surreal horror/coming-of-age/fantasy films, 1970’s Valerie a týden divu.
Is it worth seeing what all the film school cognoscenti fuss is about?
Title: Valerie and Her Week of Wonders
Directed by Jaromil Jires
Written by Jaromil Jires, Ester Krumbachová, Jirí Musil from the novel by Vítezslav Nezval.
Jaroslava Schallerová as Valerie
Helena Anýzová as Babicka / Elsa / Matka / Rusovláska
Petr Kopriva as Orlík
Josef Abrhám as Voice of Orlík
Jirí Prýmek as Polecat/vampire/constable
Jan Klusák as Gracián
Libuse Komancová as novice maid
Karel Engel as Kocí Ondrej
Alena Stojáková as Hedvika
Otto Hradecký as Landowner
Martin Wielgus as Polecat/father
Jirina Machalická as Kvetinárka
Michaela Klocová as servant
Zdenka Kovárová as servant
Bedriska Chalupská as servant
Robert Nezval as Musician
Available from Amazon (and on Amazon Instant Video).
Thirteen-year-old Valerie gets her first period and someone steals her earrings. So naturally, she wanders into a complex faerie-tale world involving vampires, witches, nymphs, sinister priests, masqueraders, her grandmother, medieval trappings, and an ageless lover. It’s like Alice in Wonderland, but with more vampires, masks– and more overt themes of emerging sexuality.
The film features bizarre and brilliant dream-imagery, faerie tales and horror movies turned inside out. The video at the end of this review gives you only a vague idea of what this Bohemian production looks like.
One must factor in that (1) the film is the product of another time and place which I had to follow subtitles and (2) the director wanted the film to be surreal and aggressively experimental. With those caveats in place, I still have to say that those of us watching unanimously felt the movie wore thin, despite running a mere hour and a quarter.
Originality: 4/6 The film adapts a novel. While Valerie’s imaginings have been shaped by readily-available images and concepts—faerie tales, medieval imagery, and horror movies—the film uses these in original ways.
Effects: 5/6 The film features effective make-up and practical effects.
Story: 3/6 It’s difficult to make any fixed sense of the story. We’re watching dreams unfold.
Emotional Response: 4/6
Overall: 5/6 As my knowledge of Soviet-era Czechoslovakia is limited, I’m likely missing things that make perfect sense in context. Unless I’m not. Visually, however, Valerie takes viewers on a fascinating trip, and one that Hollywood would never make– especially not now.
I’m guessing that, at some point, some film school students watching this one came up with a drinking game where they took a shot every time one of them asked, “WTF?” I’m also guessing that they regretted this decision the next morning.
In total, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders receives 31/42