on 28 August 2008
This gorgeous masterpiece from Czechoslovakia - a haunting, dream-like fable of a girls awakening to womanhood - is one of the most striking, beautiful and disturbing films i've ever seen. It's a film i've often heard about and seen referenced, but never saw - it's a shame because this movie is amazing. Like a nightmareish Grimm's fairytale with added naughtiness.
And Lubis Fiscer's perfect music is some of the most beautiful ever committed to film.
on 14 April 2010
It is very confusing, even annoying, when Amazon 'bundle' reviews.
These reviews may be for the same film, but often they are for different DVD productions from different countries. These DVD productions can vary greatly depending on the quality of the source material.
So, firstly, let me state that my comments relate to the Second Run version in the UK.
I have two points.
1] The print source is pristine and looks absolutely magnificent, so if you read anything to the contrary, it's from a different DVD label.
2] The film is not cut, it is entire and complete. It's amazing that confusion, or should I say a lack of insight, over the narrative structure can lead to several paragraphs of wholly unfounded, ignorant and elaborate assertions about the films length, it's fate and supposed damage.
So make sure you are reading a review for the actual DVD version that you are thinking of buying.
on 30 September 2012
Within fairytale and mythology are deeper meanings, stories illustrating our quest to get through life unscathed by its tribulations and challenges. Before the writer Perrault polished up many of our European fairy tales which eventually became, via other writers and storytellers, the child-friendly versions we have today, they were a lot darker and bloodier tales (often adapted themselves from more ancient stories). "Valerie & Her Week Of Wonders" director Jaromil Jires heads back to this era with a dark coming-of-age fantasy. Like the old Greek tales of Jason & The Argonauts, a metaphor for a boy's coming-of-age with lessons about sexuality and understanding the feminine, so "Valerie & Her Week Of Wonders" is a girl's sexual awakening in fairytale form with dark references to the masculine, told using the symbolism of that most sexual of nemeses, the vampire.
Valerie discovers the Nosferatu-style vampire revealing himself in male authority figures in her life; with the help of Eagle, her boyfriend/brother and archetypal "trickster" character and her magical earrings, she then has to confront the betrayal in her beautiful, pure grandmother's secret plan to use her as a sacrifice to the vampire to immortalise the grandmother and return her to her youth.
IMHO the film has that "bright but eerie" atmosphere of another (though very different in storyline) film of the same era, the Australian movie Picnic at Hanging Rock. A compelling adult fairy tale.
on 8 March 2013
I'm forever searching for films that expand on my already solid appreciation of the creativity in filmmakers such as Tarkovsky, Resnais, Lynch & Fellini. Often I'm disappointed when I think I've found something new, or fresh, and I find the world I'm seeking rarely exists. This film though, which was recommended to me, really surprised me. It is a superb and bizarre mash of cinematography and genres born out of the Czech New Wave (that I didn't even know existed). It has essences of the fairytale, vampire film, and fantasy all woven into a gothic dream that swings it's narrative in a delirious delicious mash of tones and atmospheres.
The film is 1hr 15mins long, which I think is an ideal length to introduce someone unaccustomed with this sort of cinema. I find that films of this ilk can sometimes be quite lengthy, sadly putting off new audiences at a glance that may enjoy them, if they only had a tiny push to delve into parts unknown. The short length, should not be underestimated as a selling point.
A great release from the Second Run DVD label, as they throw out into the market this little known gem of haunting macabre and unsettling eroticism. A film without borders or restraints that leaves you exhausted with it's beauty, pace and ideas. There's nothing else like it I've seen, and if there is I'd REALLY like to know about!
on 17 December 2009
I'm not at all familiar with Czechoslovakian new wave cinema, let alone films from that country, so this was a real awakening on my part as well as Valerie in the film. It's a wonderful film, more like a painting come to life than just a film. Imagine Nosferatu if directed by Jodorowsky and you're only halfway there. The plot as such concerns the sexual awakenings in 13 year old Valerie, as she experiences life through a waking dream, various authority figures and family members encounter Valerie, either threatening her, seducing her or appearing as vampires. Her only salvation appears to be a young man called Eagle, who could either be a dashing hero, or Valerie's brother, who tells her she is in possesion of magical earrings, that will protect her from danger. Whilst the film does leave the viewer with the question of how much if any of the film was Valerie's reality rather than her dream, it is a magical, very surreal piece of cinema, with lush visuals and a wonderful musical score, and is altogether an astounding film, that will leave the viewer happy and content. 5 out of 5.
A wonderful DVD too, with a booklet and nice extras.
on 16 November 2005
Eccentric Cult Classic
I suppose “Valerie” (1970) was a belated product of the Czech New Wave but it comes after the Prague Spring / Russian invasion. It was probably too surreal for the commissars & censors to bother with. In the West it became a cult favourite in the days when people smoked illicit substances at late night screenings in indie cinemas.
Valerie is the young heroine, she has her first period but fortunately she’s got these magic ear-rings, however everyone in her rustic village seems to be lusting with nature or turning into vampires. I hope that makes the plot clear. It must be something to do with that favourite 60s theme: “a young girl’s sexual awakening.” It’s quite effective in conjuring a sense of anxious adolescent reverie in which everything familiar becomes erotic or strange or both at the same time.
The film is structured by extreme montage, which is all over the place & makes Nic Roeg look moderate. It’s beautifully shot and extremely picturesque. This DVD transfer is from a scratchy print but maybe that adds to the charm / ambience. The DVD is put out by a company “Redemption” specializing in “gothic erotic horror.” No extras other than trailers for other “Redemption” films, judging by which they seem to be aiming at a Marilyn Manson market. I can’t imagine either goths or S/M types (or horror fans) finding much of interest in “Valerie”. However the excellent pop band Broadcast did base their “Ha Ha Sound” album around this film, so it clearly does appeal to some contemporary cult music/film fans.
on 26 February 2015
Is possible to understand why the Czechoslovak cultural authorities have no seen the movie in favourable light - as its child pornography fantazie is difficult for Czech general audience to differentiate between the art and pederasty. Why Czechs are unable to produce or create something authentic as Sexmission as Polish cinema did. The camera work is very good and the absence some ordinary message referred as biological maturing of a girl is somehow not enough to explain the effort. Some from of authentic poetic is missing and the gap between the life and horror requisites is obvious.
on 28 April 2005
This film makes sense in a very strange kind of a way - a bit like a dream does. It isn't very intelligible as a story, but it seems to suck you in nonetheless, the repetitive themes in the music evidently keyed to moods and characters so much so that I would label it a musical. The rhythm of the Czech language also adds to the mysteriousness and "music" of the characters. As far as I can tell Valerie is trying to find her (dead?) mother, assisted by her pasty Babicka (grandmother) and boyfriend (?) Orlik, or Eagle. Her tribulations involve arraignment as a witch and near death at the stake, and the film, although made under an atheist communist regime cracking down on the avant-garde after the events of the 1968 "Prague Spring", is pregnant with religious - or anti-religious? - imagery.
Not one for fans of straightforward action or stories, but a wonderful way of relaxing and being sucked into ones own dreams for an hour or two. Essential also for expressionist artists trying to create a new painting, as I was definitely influenced in my own work by watching this film.
on 25 May 2010
Valerie and Her Week of Wonders opens to the haunting sound of a flute, the white screen with purple titles punctuated by fragmented images of Valerie heralding the beginning of a 70 minute journey through a world of vampires, lecherous priests and combwebbed crypts. Adapted from the Gothic novel by the Surrealist Vitezslav Nezval (a book I highly recommend, available through Amazon) and directed by Jaromil Jires, the film is a visual delight from start to finish. It plays like a cross between Alice in Wonderland, Nosferatu and Angela Carter.
Blending the surreal with the Gothic (though Jires himself wasn't a card carrying member of the Czech Surrealists), the film has the disjointed pace of a dream with sun-soaked cinematography and beautifully composed shots: hit the pause button in some places and you have a work of art. Valerie's week of wonders is essentially her sexual awakening, and the film's bizarre series of events begin when she falls asleep during her first period. In her dreams she encounters her grandmother who seeks eternal life, a vampire who feeds off chickens and a young boy with whom she falls in love with. The film is strewn with suggestive symbolism: Valerie clutching doves to her chest, blood dripping upon fresh daisies, the phallic stake to which Valerie is tied -- it's easy to see why this film may have influenced Angela Carter as a writer. The film's landscape of characters, happenings and symbols builds up to a finale set in an autumnal glade, people frolicking like figures in a Dionysian painting.
Then there's the aforementioned music by Lubos Fiser. The film's soundtrack is also available through Amazon and I also highly recommend it. An unusual array of instruments is used, from the harpsichord to the 5 note bells which sound whenever Valerie's magical earrings are present. The DVD is a welcome release, containing an informative introduction by Michael Brooke and fully restored picture and sound. Also released by Second Run is Daisies, a psychedelic film of the Czech New Wave.
Let yourself be swept away into this dream of a film and I assure you will not be disappointed.
on 12 March 2008
One of the great films of the 20th century, and unavailable for the last 30 years, but now finally released.
I remember seeing "Valerie" for the first time in 1974. I had no idea what was going on, But it was one of the most beautiful films I'd ever seen, so I relaxed and watched the flow of images. I've seen it many times since (thanks to a bootleg copy).
The key to its understanding is that she is asleep from the start of the film to the end,
and what we are seeing are her dreams, a unique approach to say the least. A good analysis of the film can be found on pages 229-236, The Czechoslovak New Wave by Peter Hames, U. of California Press, 1985.
The end of "Valerie" is, to me, profoundly touching. During most of the film, she freely interacts with the characters of her dreams, but by the end she has achieved a kind of detached enlightenment; though they call to her, Valerie refuses to interact with them anymore. And so at the end, in that Autumnal landscape, as her dreams dance around her, she climbs into her bed one last time......Sleep tight sweet Valerie, don't let the bedbugs bite....."Fear is only a dream / so dream little one dream."