A short excerpt from the booklet essay by Peter Hames.
Following her unique second feature film, Daisies (Sedmikrásky, 1966), Chytilová worked again with co-writer and designer Ester Krumbachová (1923-96) and her second husband, cinematographer Jaroslav Kučera on Fruit of Paradise (Ovoce stromů rajských jíme,1969). It is worth considering the roles of Krumbachová and Kučera in the development of the New Wave. Krumbachová, who began as a costume designer on a wide range of films, soon became active in the wider perspective of set design, and as a screenplay writer. Married to New Wave director, Jan Němec in the 1960s, she collaborated on all of his 60s features, co-writing the screenplays of his The Party and the Guests (O slavnosti a hostech, 1966), and Martyrs of Love (Mučedníci lásky, 1966), in the second of which the heroines of Daisies make a guest appearance (as does British director Lindsay Anderson). Her work with Chytilová therefore corresponds to a period of intense activity that also included collaboration on the screenplays of Witchhammer (Kladivo na čarodějnice, 1969), directed by Otakar Vávra, and Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Valerie a týden divů, 1970), directed by Jaromil Jireš. Her only film as a director, The Death of Engineer Devil (Vražda ing. Čerta), co-scripted with Jan Němec, was released in 1970.
Kučera was once described by the veteran director, Martin Frič (who directed over 70 features between 1928-68) as Czechoslovakia's greatest cinematographer. While Kučera may not have created the New Wave, as suggested by Frič, he certainly helped to lay its foundations. His intense feeling for composition and texture was already apparent in Vojtěch Jasný's Desire (Touha, 1958), and he worked regularly with Jasný, notably on When the Cat Comes (Až přijde kocour, 1963), and All My Good Countrymen (Všichni dobří rodáci, 1968). He also worked with Jireš on The Cry and Němec on Diamonds of the Night (Démanty noci, 1964) as well as on the New Wave's collective tribute to the stories of Bohumil Hrabal, Pearls of the Deep (Perličky na dně, 1965), when he collaborated with Jireš, Němec, Evald Schorm, Jiří Menzel, and worked for the first time with Chytilová on her episode, The World Cafeteria (Automat svět). He also photographed Ivan Passer's separately released episode A Boring Afternoon/Fádní odpoledne.
Fruit of Paradise therefore brought together three people who were arguably at their creative peak. It was filmed in 1969 and selected for competition for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Festival in 1970. It was submitted by its Belgian co-producer and, of course, like most of the Czech and Slovak films produced in 1969-70, found itself destined for obscurity. Many were banned by the Czechoslovak authorities, some never released or properly promoted, and international interest began to wane after the Soviet invasion and suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968.
With Fruit of Paradise Chytilová worked with the Studio Ypsilon Theatre, founded in 1963, which was then based in the North Bohemian town of Liberec (it moved to Prague in 1978). This is a reminder of the important interactions between Czech theatre and cinema – indeed of the interconnections between all of the arts. According to Jarka M. Burian, StudioYpsilon enjoyed a playful rapport with the audience, commedia-like improvisation, and an emphasis on good humour. It was headed by Jan Schmid, who began his career in the fine arts and marionette theatre. He takes the role of Robert in the film. It is their approach that provides much of the film's formal and stylistic framework.
Unlike Daisies therefore, this was a film with both a narrative and actors. While this brings it closer to the French tradition of narrative play, improvisation also privileges movement and ambiguity over dialogue and characterisation. Nonetheless, there are still similarities with Daisies. Chytilová famously said that, with Daisies, they allowed themselves total freedom, with stylised lines of dialogue ensuring that they would not abandon the film's basic meaning. Similarly, in Fruit of Paradise, the lines of dialogue are confined to simple and sometimes trite (often absurd) exchanges, providing little more than a springboard for the development of the scene, and the film lends itself to a form of visual 'improvisation' based on the totality of the scene. Like Daisies, it is also a film that impresses through its audio-visual impact rather than involvement with its characters, who remain highly stylised as in the commedia dell'arte.
Peter Hames's complete essay, from which this excerpt is taken, appears in the booklet which accompanies the DVD release.
A short excerpt from the booklet
CineVue by Ben Nicholson
The Arts Desk
by Tom Birchemough
The People's Movies
by Ian Schultz
DVD Beaver by Eric Cotenas
Peek-a-Boo by Didier Becu
Electric Sheep by Alison Frank
Backseat Mafia by Rob Aldam
Close-Up Film by Colin Dibben
The Geek Show
by Rob Simpson
Sight & Sound by
by Nathaniel Thompson
CineOutsider by Slarek
Cinema Eclectica by
(i) Can We Live with the Truth - Fruit of Paradise at Kinoeye
(ii) Ester Krumbachová - artist, costume designer, screenwriter
(iii) Chytilová's 1975 letter tp Czech President Gustáv Husák
(iv) The Guardian: Věra Chytilová obituary
(v) Defiance and compassion: the films of Věra Chytilová
(vi) Dazed & Confused - the (d)A- Zed of Věra Chytilová
(vii) Liška lovers
(viii) Peter Hames on Ceiling
(ix) Rediscovering Chytilová