Marketa Uhlirova is following in the footsteps of Richard Nicoll, The Gentlewoman’s Penny Martin and Roksanda Illincic in introducing the latest film at Test Presents this week – one of London’s more upmarket film clubs. Held at Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green, Test Presents invites speakers and designers to host an evening of discussion and appreciation. The founder of London’s Fashion in Film Festival as well as a teaching fellow at University of the Arts London, Czech-born Uhlirova will be shedding light on a forgotten cinematic gem, Daisies. Directed by Vera Chytilova’s – one of European cinema’s most groundbreaking directors and a spearhead of 60s new wave cinema. After the film, Uhlirova will be leading a discussion on the power of colour and fashion in film. Speaking to Wonderland, Uhlirova tells us about the gems of Czech cinema, the visionary Chytilova and the power of costumes in film.

What made you select Daisies to show at Test Presents?

I’ve been saving Daisies for a rainy day for the Fashion in Film Festival, and decided the rainy day was now. Daisies is incredibly rich and provoking. I wanted to use this opportunity to make people see it in terms of its use of colour – an important tool in a number of Chytilova films.

Chytilova is a phenomenal director who questions society, gender and feminism. Is it reductive to look at Chytilova’s work from a fashion perspective?

I don’t think a choice of a particular perspective can ever be reductive if other perspectives are also allowed. Fruitless maybe, but not in this case. The aesthetic element is absolutely crucial – it was crucial to Chytilova, and her collaborator Ester Krumbachova. Krumbachova was a raw talent and like Chytilova was something of a visionary – she could write well but also designed great costumes and sets. For those who met her, she was an unforgettable presence. Thinking about the costumes specifically – they are absolutely key in shaping an overall visual identity. They work brilliantly with the narrative and the experimental techniques of the film.

Daisies was produced whilst the Czech Republic was ruled under a Communist regime – did this effect more than just its plot?

Communism affected everything in people’s lives, but it was an everyday, lived experience too, so one had to be careful not to determine an interpretation of, let’s say, a work of art, purely by that. A lot of the bite in Daisies is directed at the conservatism and stiffness of Czech society. It’s also important to remember that politically and socially, the 60s was a more liberal time, sandwiched between the most repressive decades, the 50s and the 70s. To me, Daisies epitomises the possibility of freedom and I don’t mean just politically.

Did the advent of colour films affect costumes?

It wasn’t strictly ‘colour film’ technology, but the possibility of colour film in post-production that proved very important in cinema from its earliest days. Some of the first films were hand-coloured, frame by frame – they were often films that flaunted costume as a special cinematic attraction. The link between cinema’s use of colour and fashion has always been very strong. Costume is usually very important to film and TV but it’s not always singled out as an expressive means. Many filmmakers need costume to be spot on, precise, just right, yet also kind of ‘invisible’, so the characters are believable – which I think makes complete sense.

Daisies screens at 7.30pm on the 19th January, at 2012 The Council Chamber Screening Room Town Hall Hotel – Patriot Square, London E2 9NF
Words: Lucy Morris