chapter  9
23 Pages

The feminist style in Czechoslovak cinema: the feminine imprint in the films of Věra Chytilová and Ester Krumbachová


Czech (or Czechoslovak, as applicable) cinema has not previously been subject to analysis in gender terms: most existing works on the subject cover only limited ground, or are BA and MA dissertations and remain unpublished (these include two longish ones on the portrayal of women in 1950s films: Zemančíková 2005, Kupková 2007); only one study derived from a dissertation, on the depiction of unlawful sexuality in 1930s Czech cinema (Kupková 2001, 2006), has been published.1 Even the two monothematic issues of film journals devoted specially to feminism (or post-feminism) avoided any application to the context of Czech film (these were Cinepur 61/2009 on the subject of ‘Film and gender’, and Iluminace 4/2008, focused on ‘Post-feminism and feminist film studies’). The subject of gender has left the reflection of Czech cinema untouched, and gender analysis is still deemed to be something culturally extraneous, only applicable to the fruits of cultures that were affected in a big way by the political activism of the 1960s and 1970s feminist movement. This situation might seem entirely logical in the case of a Central or East European country left largely unaffected by the second wave of feminism, which, amongst other things, gave quite a boost to critical analysis of representation and brought with it the terminology for a new reading of such cultural products as films. That notwithstanding, thorough analyses of the kind do already exist in the context of both Polish cinema (for instance Ewa Mazierska and Elżbieta Ostrowska’s Women in Polish Cinema of 2006, and Iwona Kurz’s works in cultural anthropology (2009)), and Hungarian film (the major achievements of Anikó Imre (2005), but also such studies as Beata Hock’s (2010)), so any hypothesis that relies on the region’s different political and cultural evolution will not hold water.2 Domestic reflections of Czech cinema are marked by a peculiar silence on the subject of gender – we have no analyses of the extent of women’s authorship of films, or any studies devoted to how women are actually portrayed on the screen in films by different directors, male or female.3 Few as they have been (and possibly for that very reason), any attempts to look at Czech cinema in gender terms tend to provoke disproportionate reactions and counter-attempts to ‘protect’ this or that film from any analysis perceived as ideological and a priori prejudicial to it.4