Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (film)
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|Valerie and Her Week of Wonders
Valerie a týden divů
Original Czech film poster
|Directed by||Jaromil Jireš|
|Produced by||Jirí Becka|
|Written by||Vitezslav Nezval (novel)
Jaromil Jireš (screenplay)
Ester Krumbachová (screenplay)
Jirí Musil (dialogue)
|Music by||Lubos Fiser|
|Distributed by||Janus Films (US release)|
|16 October 1970|
Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Czech: Valerie a týden divů) is a 1970 Czechoslovakian surrealist horror film directed by Jaromil Jireš and based on the 1932 novel of the same name by Vítězslav Nezval.
The 1970 film adaptation of Valerie a týden divů was shot in 1969 starring the then 13-year-old Jaroslava Schallerová as Valerie, with a supporting cast of Helena Anýžová, Karel Engel, Jan Klusák, Petr Kopriva, among others. It 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, men and women alike, and blends elements of fantasy and horror films.
The film starts out with 13-year-old Valerie (Schallerová) sleeping in a gazebo. A thief steals her earrings; as she tries to investigate, she's startled by the apparition of a horrific man who quickly covers his face with a polecat mask. The next day she is swimming in a pool and the thief's arms suddenly return her earrings to her, much to the annoyance of the young thief's boss, the man in the mask, whom the boy calls the Constable.
Back at her house, Valerie, who's just had her first period, asks her grandmother Elsa about the earrings, which belonged to Valerie's late mother: she left them behind upon entering the convent where she met Valerie's late father, a bishop. Before that, the owner of the earrings was the Constable who was also the previous owner of their house. Valerie also learns that both 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 seems to also recognize him. While practicing piano, Valerie receives a letter from the thief, whose name is Orlík ("little eagle"). In the letter, the boy reveals that the Constable is his own uncle and very dangerous; he killed Orlík's parents and now wants Valerie's earrings back. Orlík asks Valerie to meet him at the church during the evening sermon where the head missionary will address the town's virgins. After the service, the two meet and the boy doesn't hide to be attracted to Valerie.
Later, Valerie meets the Constable in the street, disguised as the head missionary; he leads Valerie to a chamber where she is forced to watch her grandmother whip 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 with Elsa, who calls him Richard and was his lover when she was 17. He seems to be ageless and promises to make her young again on one condition: she has to sell him the house that Valerie is destined to inherit. In the meantime, Orlík gives Valerie a pearl and tells her that it will keep her safe, then he hides her from the Constable again.
At a picnic with Gracián, the lustful priest reveals that Valerie's father, the bishop, had another kid named Orlík. That night, while she's undressing in her bedroom, Gracián comes in and attempts to rape her but she swallows the pearl to protect herself. In the meantime, Richard and Elsa have silently broken into Hedvika's; while the girl and her much older husband consummate their first night, Elsa bites her on the neck, stealing the blood necessary to become young again.
Valerie finds Orlík bound to a waterfall, a punishment the Constable inflicted upon him for his betrayals. Valerie frees Orlík and takes him to her house, while keeping the boy's own ardor at bay by blindfolding him, since she now thinks they're siblings. He notes that the plague that's threatening the village is actually a welcome development, because the Constable needs fresh, clean blood to survive. They find out Gracián has hanged himself out of Valerie's window; they take the body to a crypt under Valerie's house, where the Constable uses to put his bloodless victims; Elsa is there, in a coffin, having turned into a vampire by the Constable's ritual. Under the guise of a young woman, Elsa introduces herself as a distant cousin and tells Valerie that her grandmother has suddenly left. She tries to bite Valerie, then restrains her while she's asleep and steals the earrings. Elsa locks up Valerie in a barn that contains a strange mechanism; here, the young girl spies on Elsa having sex with a man and then killing him, then trying in vain to seduce Orlík, who instead steals the earrings once again.
Orlík frees Valerie and gives her the earrings back. The boy confesses Valerie his love, and tries to explain he's not the bishop's son, but the Constable's, but Valerie runs away. She has guessed Elsa is actually her grandmother, but she's started to feel something for Richard, who's dying. Valerie goes to the town market, steals a chicken and takes it to the dying Richard, who's just revealed to a now defiant Elsa that he's actually the bishop, Valerie's father, and that the key to their survival lies within Valerie's blood. Richard is finding back his human feeling now that he's dying, but once Valerie heals him, he goes right back to being a monster and attacks her. He plans to put Orlík's heart inside Valerie's chest in order to make her immortal, but Elsa wants it for herself. Valerie, while faking to be passed out in the crypt, overheard everything. She revives Gracián, who wasn't actually dead, and finds a goodbye letter from Orlík.
She meets Hedvika, who's sick from Elsa's bite and depressed about her marriage. The two girls retreat into Hedvika's bedroom and find themselves into each other's arms. After a night of love with Valerie, Hedvika is healed.
Outside, Gracián is working the crowd, accusing Valerie to be a witch that tempted him into sin. He orders her captured and burned at the stake, but Valerie swallows the magic earrings and emerge unscathed from the flames. Back to the crypt, which has now turned into a brothel, Valerie tricks Richard into drinking one of the earrings, turning him into the polecat that gave him his nickname and mask. In a progressively more and more dream-like sequence, Valerie reunites with Orlík, who's revealed to be one of the actors; then Elsa, who's back in her older form and doesn't seem to recall anything that's happened; then her long-lost parents. The final scene has all the characters dancing and parading around Valerie in the forest, while all the virgins sing for her. She ends up alone, and falls asleep in a bed in the middle of the woods.
In January 2004 the film became available commercially in the US on the Facets Video label and in June that year the film was released on DVD in the UK by Redemption Films Ltd. In 2006 the film was officially released in the Czech Republic by label CÈV/Bonton. All three releases present the film in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Unlike the Facets and Redemption releases, the CÈV/Bonton DVD is not presented with hardcoded English subtitles, but with optional Czech subtitles. British label Second Run DVD  released an all-new remastered edition of the film on PAL Region 0 DVD on 25 August 2008.
Criterion have announced a Blu-ray release scheduled for June 2015.
The film soundtrack, featuring music composed by Luboš Fišer, was released for the first time by  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.
Many writers have cited similarities between the film and the work of English writer Angela Carter, who had seen the film during its release in England. 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.
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- "Valerie and Her Week of Wonders". Amazon.com. Retrieved 9 December 2011.
- "Valerie and her Week of Wonders". Second Run DVD. Retrieved 2009-04-30.
- "The Valerie Project". Finders Keepers Records.
- Tanya Krzywinska. "Transgression, transformation and titillation". Kinoeye: New Perspectives on European Film. Retrieved September 2003.
- "the Valerie Project".