Studies in Eastern European Cinema
Peter Hames (Staffordshire University, UK)
Věra Chytilová (1929-2014) was frequently described as the ‘first lady’ of Czech film. Yet her long career was also one of struggle and opposition. Internationally, she is best known for her work on Sedmikrásky (Daisies, 1966), one of the most inventive films of the 1960s. But while this led to a number of major essays from both feminist and avant-garde perspectives, her work as a whole has largely been ignored in English language criticism. Her film making career spanned the years 1961-2011 with the exception of a six-year hiatus following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, when it seemed unlikely that she would be able to resume her career. As the sole female director of the Czech ‘New Wave’, her early work did not find favour with the authorities, who condemned it as negative and incomprehensible.
Returning to work in 1976, she continued to provoke controversy in a reformed cinema that favoured conventional forms and sanitised criticism. Films such as Hra o jablko (The Apple Game, 1976) and Panelstory (Prefab Story, 1979) were to prove particularly controversial in a domestic context. Nevertheless, she was able to complete seven features before the fall of communism in 1989. A defender of the concept of a nationalised industry, she once noted that she and her colleagues had been accused of giving credence to the regime when their work had in fact been ‘critical and avant-garde’. The difficulties that followed the denationalisation of the industry led to production problems more generally and Chytilová was only able to complete five features in the final years of her career. However, during this period, she considerably increased her production of documentaries and also worked as head of direction at FAMU (the Prague Film School).
This special issue of SEEC is designed to look at her career overall and in this sense, is intended as a tribute, but it should also provide a critical assessment of her work under different socio-political circumstances, and open up discussion in previously neglected areas. While it is assumed that some articles may be written from feminist theoretical perspectives, other approaches can also be adopted. As a number of major critical articles have already been written about Sedmikrásky, we would welcome work embracing a broader perspective and, in particular, a consideration of both her work under ‘normalisation’ (1968-89) and subsequent to the ‘Velvet Revolution’ of 1989 (1989-2011).
Proposals are welcome along the following lines:
- Chytilová’s stylistic and thematic significance for the development of the Czechoslovak ‘New Wave’.
- her collaboration with cinematographers and the use of differing visual strategies in her post-1969 films.
- the impact of theatrical collaboration on her work (e.g. Studio Ypsilon, Bolek Polívka’s mime theatre, Sklep /The Cellar).
- Chytilová’s collaboration with Ester Krumbachová.
- Chytilová’s declared commitment to ‘morality’ in different social and political frameworks.
- aspects of her work in documentary film
- Chytilová’s work as an ‘avant-garde’ and/or feminist filmmaker and its international and national influence.
- Chytilová’s work in the context of European new waves.
- her influence as a director and teacher.
Full articles of up to 7,000 words are expected. The deadline for submitting abstracts of 200-300 words is 30 April, 2017. Full articles are expected in November 2017.
Please send the abstracts to firstname.lastname@example.org or Ewa Mazierska at EHMazierska@uclan.ac.uk