For Reel

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)
October 27, 2015, 5:28 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Jaromil Jireš
4 Stars
Valerie and Her Week of WondersThe surrealist Czech fairytale Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is edited with a liberated, free-associative style–there are often radical shifts in the story, perspective, and place. Polecat (Jirí Prýmek), the Nosferatu-like vampire, turns to the eponymous Valerie (Jaroslava Schallerová), and instead of a typical shot-reverse-shot, the film cuts to a washed out, idyllic shot of Valerie bathing in a stream, as if signifying her purity and virginhood. While such radical means of disorientation might be used as violent, confrontational aesthetic choices in other films, director Jaromil Jireš finds a fluidity in his rhythm, giving the viewer a feeling of being in a trance. Valerie’s confrontation with womanhood also serves as a means of “infantilizing” the audience–sexuality and horror are suddenly inextricably linked, neither quite sensible or familiar. In involving a perverted clergyman, witch burning, and vampiric lore (Bram Stoker’s Dracula is as fearful of “corrupt” women as horror gets), Valerie approaches a world that is vaguely women-hating and also women-obsessed. When she asks Eaglet (Petr Kopriva), “How can I love him when I’m afraid of him?”, he naturally responds, “That’s exactly why.” As visually striking as Daisies (if not as politically ambitious), Valerie and Her Week of Wonders demonstrates the confrontation between a young girl and the baggage of a foreign adult world with an appropriate surrealism, suggesting both the bewilderment and the sensual, hypnotic fascination with the unknown.

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