The 1960s were a transformative time for women. Women started to rebel against old ideals that may have trapped their psyches into burdensome and unfamiliar roles. These ideals then began to change through the news media, commercialism, and entertainment, since activism and the Civil Rights movement were at their peak in this crucial and pivotal moment in history for both race and gender. Two films that display cinematic gender truth are Chytilová’s Daisies and Antonioni’s Red Desert, both of which portray an undercurrent of women starting to go into flux with the times. These two films project the female gender undergoing a singular, dynamic shift from traditional ideals of the 1960s and the way filmmakers Antonioni and Chytilová isolate and express “cinematic truth” through form and content, projecting the cultural and psychological struggle for feminine identity in modern times.
The use form through Modernism “emphasizes idea and process over content,” allowing cinematic truth to be communicated and recognizing that women had been subverted in society. Annete Kuhn and Susannah Radstone have said “Antonioni has given attention to female character construction and has placed women centrally, and with a non-objectifying gaze, in his narratives” (n.p). This supports the idea of alienation found in Antonioni ‘s, Red Desert; he uses color and composition to express the interior struggle for Giuliana. He simultaneously centralizes and decentralizes her in shots that range from deep to flat spaces. Alienation is Antonioni ‘s focus for Giuliana, who is seen in multiple scenes alone and standing by massive industrial buildings, showing the disparity of being both desired and unwanted. This juxtaposition exposes the negative feelings and the conflict being felt by Giuliana in society. The landscape is barren and dry with Giuliana contemplating her value- which her in environment is stale and vibrant colors accenting aspects of her personality. Daisies presents two women of same name, “Marie,” to imply that it is a tale of one woman in a socialist country trying to conform to ideals that stifle the psyche in a time when both favor the destruction of and shameless rejection of traditional social norms. The shots and erratic continuity in editing impact the meaning, thereby showing how modernism and experimentation combine to capture and projects the struggle for clear self-identify. Chytilová states, “The form of the film was really derived from the conceptual basis of the film. Because the concept of the film was destruction, the form became destructive as well”(qtd, in Rainforth). Being produced in Czechoslovakia, a socialist country where freedom of speech is a controversy, has made the film what is by the nature of the environment in which it was written, directed, and edited. The film makes the spectator actively engage in following the women being rebellious and not conforming to a world that is self-destructive. Similar in displaying women going through change, Rainforth states that “it utilizes a formal logic of repetition to successfully destroy narrative and the psychological development of character.”
The content in both films, Daisies and Red Desert presents the woman in a state of dismantlement and a search for individualization in accordance with new ideals. The traditional ideals no longer fit with their psyches. In Red Desert, Giuliana is at times physically alone and at times mentally aloof, alone with her thoughts. The explanation for this behavior is her recent automobile accident. The sympathy is there to grasp for members of the audience at their discretion. The accident could symbolize a number of things that women could identify with during the 1960s. The “cinematic truth” in that impersonal environment modified their familiar old ideals from the outside-in to an eventual re-shaping of their place them in society. Corrado Zeller, a friend of Giuliana, although a man, makes similar parallel comparisons from his life to hers, struggling to conform and fit with the changing tide of the times. The ideas and feelings they both share produce the same revelations: Philosophically, women were starting to recognize an independence of mind and freedom which for Giuliana, is too much to see. In Daisies, the two Maries decide to “go bad” for the sake of self-destruction. Their decision alludes to their developmental struggle to fit into a socialist world that abhor the freedoms of other nations and suggests that women were starting to realize a new dimension of their psyches find new ideals that otherwise had not been explored or oppressed by old ideals.
The two filmmakers Antonioni and Chytilová show the nature of the contrast between old and new with form and content. Giuliana being depressed and alienated from society shows her mourning of the happiness she could have had, if not for ideals and freedom that went unrealized. It is all too overwhelming for her to see. In Daisies, the Maries spoil the food and chauvinistically living. Through the medium, these films depict a torrent of change that women will be going through for decades to come. Their emotional emptiness in Red Desert displays why women feel their compassion and can be a double edged sword; however, it is also a strength not merely a weakness society seems to dismiss and exploit. The 1960s were pivotal time for both Civil Rights and women’s and that is the cinematic truth.
Kuhn, Annette. The Wonen’s Companion to International Film. Berkely: University of California Press, 1994. (Print).
Rainforth, Rainforth “The Film’s Going Bad:.Collabortive Cutting in Daises” Senses of cinema (2007)