Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)

“He’s one hundred years overdue for death”

‘Valerie and Her Week of Wonders’, directed by Jaromil Jireš in 1970, is a dark, fairy-tale horror, adapted from a 1932 novel, that follows the adventures of the title character as she negotiates a series of dreamlike encounters with vampires, her strange family and the eccentric local villagers. Despite its dark and, at times uncomfortable, eroticism it’s also quite a light and lyrical movie. The central character drifts through the disturbing events with a kind of woozy pacificity, without showing any signs of her adventures being any more than a vivid dream. This gives the whole film an intensely unreal edge: all the performances, the staging, the camera work and the locations combine to make the viewer feel that they are dreaming with the central character. It’s packed with Jungian symbolism and dripping with sexual subtexts, all of which seems to connect with the 1960s appropriation of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’ stories. This seems to be a particular preoccupation in Czechoslovakia, the movie that springs to mind is Jan Svankmajer’s 1988 adaptation of Alice. It’s also tempting to impose political subtexts on ‘Valerie’ given the timing and nature of its production, but it’s far more fun to just dwell on the weird and uncanny imagery and the unsettling feeling that you’ve slipped down the rabbit hole as well.

Would I recommend it? Yes, maybe with ‘Daisies’ or perhaps with Svankmajer.

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