Inspired by fairy-tales such as Alice in Wonderland and Little Red-Riding Hood, "Valerie and her Week of Wonders" is a surreal tale in which love, fear, sex and religion merge into one fantastic world.
In the 1950's, Ludvik Jahn was expelled from the Communist Party and the University by his fellow students, because of a politically incorrect note he sent to his girlfriend. Fifteen years ... See full summary »
A thief awakens Valerie, just 13, taking earrings left to her by her mother. By morning, the earrings have been returned, Valerie's first period has begun, and a troupe and a missionary have arrived in her 19th century town. The thief is Orick; he reports to a cloaked constable who may also be the missionary. Attention to sexuality is everywhere: Valerie's grandmother's puritanical nature, the missionary's sermon to the town's virgins, the parish priest's attempt to seduce Valerie, and lusty adults at play. Valerie's nascent sexuality puts her in great danger. Can she navigate the passage from innocence to experience, a route teaming with vampires, a murderer, and an obscure family tree? Written by
A masterpiece of erotic confusion, Valerie comes as a delightful introduction to prolific Czechoslovakian director Jaromil Jires, whose career spans five decades. Jires blends reality and illusion to the extent that a synopsis does a disservice to the film, yet the literary story would work quite well on its own. Jaroslava Schallerovà, only 14 years old at the time, plays Valerie, a pretty young girl who lives with her grandmother in a beautiful yet antiseptic house. Her boyfriend (or perhaps brother), who goes by the name Eagle, sets off a chain of unusual events when he steals her earrings. A troupe of actors, or perhaps a wedding procession, comes into town, bringing with it a man who may be a monstrous vampire but may also be Valerie's father. Soon after Valerie's grandmother either disappears or dies, her Cousin Else shows up at the house and bears more than a striking resemblance to the grandmother (indeed, I believe these characters are played by the same actress). Things progress much along these lines, with eventually Valerie experiencing a major reawakening. Jires films in an impressively sensual manner, creating a mood through imagery rather than plot point. At times, however, the details get rather confusing, which can unfortunately shift attention from the beautiful composition and editing to deducing narrative developments. Many sequences appear to occur within the story but then end with the suggestion that they have just been imagined, introducing a need to constantly second-guess one's perceptions. Schallerovà plays the role with stunning (perhaps genuine) innocence. Without overindulged serenity, Valerie mystifies and befuddles through an agenda of symbol-soaked imagery and fantastic storytelling.
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