Halloween Gothic Weekend

Posted by Glennis Byron on September 27, 2008 in Blog tagged with

Halloween Gothic: A screening of international Gothic Horror films

macrobert theatre, stirling

October 31 – November 2


Valerie and Her Week of Wonders

The first film to be screened for our Halloween Gothic weekend is Valerie a tyden divu / Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Jaromil Jires, 1970).  The screenplay was adapted from a novel by the poet Vitezslav Nezval, active in the Poetist movement of the 1920s and co-founder of the Czech Surrealist Group in 1934.

Nezval was heavily influenced by the 18th and 19th century Gothic novel (he even commissioned a Czech translation of Lewis’s The Monk). He also reveals his familiarity with Murnau’s Nosferatu  and with that perennial favourite of the surrealists, Alice in Wonderland.

All these influences can also be seen in Jaromil Jires’s film, with its dream-like world that Peter Hames suggests is reminiscent of the films of Fellini. The dreams are those of the 13 year old Valerie and their sexual nature linked to the beginning of her menstrual cycle. Valerie was played by the 13 year old Jaroslava Schallerova and I’m wondering how willing film makers today would be to eroticise a 13 year old in the way this film does – I await the audience response with just a touch of apprehension. You can certainly understand why Angela Carter was so taken with the film, and see its influence upon the film of her Company of Wolves (another sexual rite of passage) and in many of the stories in The Bloody Chamber.

According to Peter Hames, the film ‘is clearly most concerned with Valerie’s recognition that her immediate family and friends are sexual beings (and that this sexuality may also be alternate and ambiguous) but also the masking of this sexuality by the repressive structures of religion and authority’. Hames has a chapter on the film in his book on The Czechoslovak New Wave (2005)

If for no other reason, it’s worth seeing for the breathtaking photography and the striking score which create such a lush fantasy. Don’t even bother trying to count the Freudian images…

I thought all the youtube clips disappointing; they don’t give a very good sense of the film. Anyway, this is something that has to be seen on the big screen.

There’s an article by Tanya Krzywinska in the online journal Kinoeye but I recommend seeing the film before you read this. Krzywinska perhaps makes too much of an attempt to fix a straight narrative to a film that proceeds more through poetic and visual associations.


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