Communism has been inadvertently responsible for a raft of great films and brilliant directors. Despite heavy censorship under the Soviet regime, the Czech New Wave was responsible for some of the more outlandish, experimental and visionary films of the 1960s. These films were epitomised by their absurdity, dark humour and focus on the ordinary concerns of the average person (often played against a surreal backdrop). Věra Chytilová uses visual imagery and surrealism to form her films, and in Fruit of Paradise, the follow-up to her most famous work Daisies, she takes everyday life and adds a bucket of the bizarre.
The film opens in Eden, with Eva (Jitka Novákova) and Jozef (Karel Novak) at home in their innocent contentment. Fast forward to the fallen world and the couple are at a spa retreat populated by an array of wasteful and idle people. Eva becomes obsessed with Robert (Jan Schmid), a red suited libertine whom everyone is enthralled by. When Eva discovers he’s a serial killer she desperately tries to return to her past innocence, and win back Jozef who she’s driven away.
Fruit of Paradise is an allegory about communism, charting the transition from innocence, hope and unity to totalitarianism rule by a wasteful elite. It was her final film before the Soviet invasion and it wasn’t received well by the Czechoslovakian authorities. Indeed, this was the last film she was able to make with any manner of freedom for years to come. It’s brimming with imagery and metaphor, part of the new language in cinema being introduced by radical film makers during the late ’60s. Beautifully made, Fruits of Paradise is not easy to follow, but ultimately rewarding.
Fruit of Paradise is released on DVD by Second Run today.