Today I watched Jaromil Jireš’ Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)
Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is a surreal Czechoslovakian vampire film. As a surreal film the scenes do not come in a normal, logical manner, the film is very dreamlike and the narrative is more about mood than a coherent chain of events. The film struck me as coming of age tale that balanced its focus between the sexual aspects and the growing independence and responsibility as Valerie must deal with predations from corrupt church officials and vampires in equal measure.
The film’s imagery is heavily inspired by Gothic horror and it creates a vivid atmosphere with it. By contrasting beauty and the grotesque the film creates a subversive faerie tale like mood which is quite unique. This imagery becomes one of the primary modes this film uses to convey it’s narrative as the scenes do not connect in conventional ways.
Despite the art-house nature of this film, I think it would be quite accessible to a less intellectually inclined audience. What it has in high art theme and experimentation it balances with plenty of entertainment brought on by the interplay of Horror genre conventions and surreal conventions; the film works as both kitsch and class. I think this is at least partially due to the brisk pace, short run time, and density; there is plenty of memorable imagery and scenes for how long the film really is and it never really gets boring what with the consistency with which it introduces new elements.
Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is a marvelous, beautiful film that takes the inherently erotic and thrilling elements of classic Gothic horror and uses them in new and creative ways that are still fresh and interesting today. It shifts from being bright and vivid to dark and disturbing with a natural ease indicative of true quality film making. I recommend any horror aficionado to check this out for a fascinating change of pace that still packs in plenty of thrills and chills. 5/5