The most famous of early-1970s Czech surreal horror/coming-of-age/fantasy movies, Valerie a týden divu (1970) holds quite a reputation among film cognoscenti. Based on a 1935 novel, the film nevertheless reflects its own era, and has beguiled viewers ever since.

Thirteen-year-old Valerie gets her first period and someone steals her earrings. So naturally, she wanders into a complex medieval faerie-tale world involving vampires, witches, nymphs, predatory priests, masqueraders, her grandmother, and an ageless lover. It's like Alice in Wonderland, but with more vampires and sex. Beyond that, it's difficult to summarize the story. Children's tales and horror movies turn inside out. We're watching adolescent dreams surge and nightmares surface.

I'm guessing that, at some point, some film school students watching this movie came up with a drinking game where they took a shot every time one of them asked, "WTF?" I'm also guessing that they regretted this decision the next morning.

As my knowledge of Soviet-era Czechoslovakia is limited, I might be missing things that make perfect sense in context. Caveats aside, I found the film wore thin after awhile, despite running a mere hour and a quarter. Visually, however, Valerie takes viewers on a fascinating trip, and one that Hollywood would never make.

Directed by Jaromil Jires
Written by Jaromil Jires, Ester Krumbachová, Jirí Musil from the novel by Vítezslav Nezval.

Jaroslava Schallerová as Valerie
Helena Anýzová as Babicka / Elsa / Matka / Rusovláska
Petr Kopriva as Orlík
Josef Abrhám as Voice of Orlík
Jirí Prýmek as Polecat/vampire/constable
Jan Klusák as Gracián
Libuse Komancová as novice maid
Karel Engel as Kocí Ondrej
Alena Stojáková as Hedvika
Otto Hradecký as Landowner
Martin Wielgus as Polecat/father
Jirina Machalická as Kvetinárka

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