Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (film)

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Valerie and Her Week of Wonders
Valerie a týden divů
4467 print2.jpg
Original Czech theatrical release poster
Directed byJaromil Jireš
Produced byJirí Becka
Written byVitezslav Nezval (novel)
Jaromil Jireš (screenplay)
Ester Krumbachová (screenplay)
Jirí Musil (dialogue)
StarringJaroslava Schallerová
Helena Anýžová
Karel Engel
Jan Klusák
Petr Kopriva
Music byLubos Fiser
Distributed byJanus Films (U.S.)
Release date
  • 16 October 1970 (1970-10-16)
Running time
73 minutes
CountryCzechoslovakia
LanguageCzech

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Czech: Valerie a týden divů) is a 1970 Czechoslovakian surrealist horror film[1][2] directed by Jaromil Jireš and based on the 1935 novel of the same name by Vítězslav Nezval. It is considered part of the Czechoslovak New Wave movement.[2] The film stars 13-year-old Jaroslava Schallerová as Valerie, with a supporting cast that includes Helena Anýžová, Karel Engel, Jan Klusák, and Petr Kopriva.

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders was filmed in the Czech town of Slavonice and surrounding areas. The film portrays the heroine as living in a disorienting dream, cajoled by priests, vampires, and men and women alike. The film blends elements of the fantasy and horror film genres.[3]

Plot[edit]

Valerie, a pretty young girl, is asleep when a thief steals her earrings; as she tries to investigate, she's startled by a horrific man, the Constable, who covers his face with a mask. The thief returns her earrings the next day, angering the Constable.

Back at her house, Valerie's grandmother, Elsa, tells her that the earrings were left behind by Valerie's mother upon joining a convent. Previously, the earrings belonged to the Constable, who also owned their house. Valerie also learns that a group of missionaries and a company of actors are coming to town. During her neighbor Hedvika's wedding, Valerie sees the Constable watching her in the crowd and her grandmother also seems to recognize him. Valerie receives a letter from the thief, Orlík ("Eaglet"), warning her that the Constable, his uncle, killed Orlík's parents and now wants Valerie's earrings back. Orlík asks Valerie to meet him at the church that evening; when they meet he doesn't hide his attraction to her.

Later, Valerie meets the Constable in the street, in disguise; he leads Valerie to a chamber where her grandmother whips herself to win back the love of a past lover, a priest named Gracián. Orlík saves Valerie and tells her that his uncle is in love with her. The Constable meets Elsa, who calls him Richard and was his lover when she was 17. He promises to make her young again if she sells him the house that Valerie will inherit. Meanwhile, Orlík gives Valerie a pearl for protection, then hides her from Richard again. At a picnic, Gracián tells Valerie that Orlík is her brother. That night, Gracián comes into her bedroom and attempts to rape her, but she swallows the pearl to protect herself. Meanwhile, Richard and Elsa sneak into Hedvika's; while Hedvika and her husband consummate their marriage, Elsa bites her on the neck, stealing the blood necessary to become young again.

Valerie finds Orlík bound to a waterfall by Richard. Valerie frees Orlík and takes him to her house, avoiding his romantic intentions by blindfolding him, since she now thinks they're siblings. They discover Gracián hanging dead from Valerie's window and take the body to a crypt under Valerie's house; Elsa is there, now a vampire. Disguised as a young woman, Elsa introduces herself as a distant cousin and tells Valerie that her grandmother left suddenly. She tries to bite Valerie, then restrains her while she's asleep and steals the earrings. Elsa imprisons Valerie, who then observes Elsa having sex with a man and then killing him, then attempting to seduce Orlík, who instead steals the earrings again.

Orlík frees Valerie, returns her earrings, and confesses his love for her. He tries to explain that he's not her father's son, but Richard's, but Valerie runs away. She has guessed Elsa is actually her grandmother, and started to feel something for Richard, who's dying. Valerie steals a chicken from the market and takes it to Richard, who's just told Elsa that he is Valerie's father, and that Valerie's blood is the key to their survival. When Valerie heals Richard, he reverts to being a monster and attacks her. He plans to transplant Orlík's heart into Valerie to make her immortal, but Elsa wants it for herself. Valerie, pretending to be unconscious, overhears everything. She revives Gracián, who wasn't actually dead, and finds a goodbye letter from Orlík.

Valerie meets Hedvika, sick from Elsa's bite and depressed about her marriage. They retreat into Hedvika's bedroom and spend the night together, after which Hedvika is healed. Outside, Gracián tells a crowd that Valerie is a witch who tempted him into sin. He orders her captured and burned at the stake, but Valerie swallows the magic earrings and escapes unharmed. In the crypt, now a brothel, Valerie tricks Richard into drinking one of the earrings, turning him into a polecat. In a progressively more dreamlike sequence, Valerie reunites with Orlík, revealed to be one of the actors; then Elsa, who doesn't recall anything that's happened; then her long-lost parents. In the final scene everyone dances around Valerie in the forest, while the virgins sing for her. Eventually she falls asleep in a bed in the forest, alone.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The screenplay was approved in late April 1968, and despite Jireš' 1969 feature The Joke being banned by Czech authorities, production proceeded on Valerie.[1]

Soundtrack[edit]

The film soundtrack, featuring music composed by Luboš Fišer, was released for the first time [4] in December 2006. Available both on CD and LP, the booklet reveals previously unseen images, international poster designs, as well as notes by Andy Votel, Peter Hames and Trish Keenan from the band Broadcast.[citation needed]

Release[edit]

Home media[edit]

In January 2004, the film was released on DVD in the United States and Canada by Facets Video.[5] In June of that same year, the film was released on DVD in the UK by Redemption Films Ltd.. In June 2015, the film was released on DVD and Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection, featuring a 4K digital restoration; three early short films by director Jireš, Uncle (1959), Footprints (1960), and The Hall of Lost Steps (1960); interviews from 2006 with Jaroslava Schallerová and Jan Klusák; and an alternate psychedelic folk soundtrack by the Valerie Project.[6]

Critical reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 100% based on 14 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 7.8/10.[7] The New York Times called the film "Consistently and humorously anticlerical", writing that it "may be the most exotic flower to bloom on the grave of the Prague Spring, but it's one with deep roots in 20th-century Czech culture".[8]

Jordan Cronk of Slant Magazine wrote that the film "may be a willfully enigmatic, even obtuse viewing experience, but every frame continues to vibrant with energy and thrum with life", and gave the film a rating of three-and-a-half out of five stars.[9] Mike D'Angelo of The A.V. Club gave the film a rating of C-, calling it "the sort of film that you really have to experience for yourself" and writing that "some will see not so much a week of wonders as a week of wanking. Others will be entranced".[10]

In the book 101 Horror Films You Must See Before You Die, author and professor at Brunel University Tanya Krzyminska called the film "an exquisitely crafted fairy tale woven around the sexual awakening of a young woman". Krzyminska also noted that, although the film shared many similarities with soft-core pornographic films of the period, "it seeks a broader canvas in a blend of attributes drawn from both high and low culture." Krzyminska also noted the film's elements of gothic horror and fairy tales, as well as its use of symbolic imagery.[11]

Influence[edit]

Many writers have cited similarities between the film and the work of English writer Angela Carter (1940–1992), who had seen the film during its release in England.[12] Her screenplay for The Company of Wolves (1984) adapted from Carter's short stories, in collaboration with director Neil Jordan, bears a direct or indirect influence. A May 2005 Jireš retrospective film series at Riverside Studios showed the two films together.[citation needed]

In 2006 members of New Weird America acts Espers, Fern Knight, Fursaxa and other musicians formed the Valerie Project.[13] The group performs original compositions in unison with the film.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Prikryl, Jana. "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders: Grandmother, What Big Fangs You Have!". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
  2. ^ a b Khan, Imran. "Sexual Horror in 'Valerie and Her Week of Wonders". Pop Matters.com. Imran Khan. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  3. ^ "Czech horror: Jaromil Jireš's Valerie a týden divů (Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, 1970)". KinoEye. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  4. ^ "The Valerie Project". Finders Keepers Records. Archived from the original on 2009-07-26.
  5. ^ "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders". Amazon.com. Retrieved 9 December 2011.
  6. ^ "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  7. ^ "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.com. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  8. ^ J. Hoberman (2 July 2015). "Tom, Jerry and 'Valerie and Her Week of Wonders': Cat, Mouse and Head Trip". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  9. ^ Jordan Cronk (29 June 2015). "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  10. ^ Mike D'Angelo (1 July 2015). "Maybe ignore our grade and see Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders for yourself". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  11. ^ Steven Jay Schneider (2009). 101 Horror Movies You Must See Before You Die. Octopus Publishing Group. pp. 177–178. ISBN 978-1-84403-673-8.
  12. ^ Tanya Krzywinska. "Transgression, transformation and titillation". Kinoeye: New Perspectives on European Film. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  13. ^ "the Valerie Project".

External links[edit]