“First Lady of Czech Cinema,” Vera Chytilova, dies aged 85 in Prague.

    “First Lady of Czech Cinema,” Vera Chytilova, dies aged 85 in Prague. Vera Chytilova

    PRAGUE: Vera Chytilova, one of the leading filmmakers of the Czech New Wave cinema died yesterday (12 March 2014) in Prague at the age of 85. Among Czech filmmakers she has always been highly respected not only for her great contribution to the Czech cinema but also for her radical, uncompromising personality. 

    Before graduating from Prague Film Academy (FAMU)  in 1962, Chytilova studied architecture and also worked as a model. Her first films The Ceiling, Bagful of Flies and Something Different combining drama and documentary elements were inspired by the French cinema verité style. However, her typical, very specific and personal style of filmmaking, greatly influenced by the French New Wave and Italian neorealism was fully expressed only later, in Daisies (1966), her best known feature, and for many people a symbol of the Czech New Wave. Daisies is a parable about the hypocrisy of society, filmed in the style of crazy comedy. It was immediately banned in Czechoslovakia after which Chytilova had to face controversy and heavy censorship from the communist government continually.

    After the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, several of Chytilova´s new wave colleagues and friends emigrated to the West. Unlike them, Chytilova stayed in Czechoslovakia and even in the most difficult times of the so called normalization she tried to continue making films. The theme of ethics and individual responsibility was always at the center of Chytilova´s films, although often hidden behind a comedy genre, like in The Apple Game (1976), The Very Late Afternoon of the Faun (1983) or Tainted Horseplay (1988).

    Her critical attitude towards Czech society survived even after the “Velvet revolution”. The target of her criticism in Inheritance (1992) was society at the beginning of 1990´s with its quite questionable new values. Her latest film, Pleasant Memoments, produced by Czech TV was released in 2006. After the end of communism Chytilova also taught directing at FAMU for many years and fortunately brought up followers of her art.

    Vera Chytilova has received numerous awards both at home and abroad – from international film festivals Venice, Oberhausen, Bergamo Chicago or Karlovy Vary and in 1992 she was awarded the the French Order of Arts and Letters. In 2000 she received the Czech Lion for longtime artistic contribution to Czech film and she was also awarded the Czech State Medal for Merit.