Budapest, Hungary – One Czech, one Polish and two Hungarian movies have been included on BBC Culture’s list of the 100 greatest films directed by women, with Věra Chytilová’s 1966 classic Daisies making the Top 10.
Jane Campion’s The Piano (1993) was voted as the greatest film directed by a woman, in front of Agnès Varda’s Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962) and Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles by Chantal Akerman (1975).
Nearly 800 films were nominated and voted for by a panel of 368 film experts who came from 84 countries – including critics, journalists, festivals programmers and movie academics. With each voter listing their 10 favourite films directed by women, BBC Culure aimed to create a gender-balanced poll composed of 185 female voters, 181 male voters, one non-binary person, and one who preferred not to say.
Here are the four Central European movies and filmmakers that made the list:
97. Adoption, by Márta Mészáros (1975) – Hungary
A little gem from the 1970’s directed by Márta Mészáros, Hungarian drama ‘Adoption’ revolves around Kata, a 43-year-old single factory worker, and Anna, a teenage schoolgirl abandoned by her parents at the age of six, and the growing, multi-faceted bond that starts forming between the two women. ‘Adoption’ went on to be nominated as Hungary’s entry for the Foreign Language Movie Academy Award, and won the Golden Bear at the 25th Berlin International Film Festival. Born in 1931, Márta Mészáros is also known for Diary of my Children (1984) and The Last Report on Anna (2009).
73. On Body and Soul, by Ildikó Enyedi (2017) – Hungary
An incredibly moving story celebrated by critics and moviegoers all around the world, Idliko Enyedi’s On Body and Soul tells the cathartic tale of Endre, the manager of a small slaughterhouse on the outskirts of Budapest, and Maria, the enigmatic and cryptic quality-control inspector – two outcasts whose lives and existences become increasingly intertwined. ‘On Body and Soul’ was nominated for the Academy Award of Best Foreign Language Film 2018, confirming Enyedi’s place as one of the most prominent contemporary filmmakers in Hungary. Her next movie, The Story of my Wife, based on Milan Fust’s novel and starring Lea Seydoux, is due to come out next year.
72. Europa Europa, by Agnieszka Holland (1990) – Poland
Arguably the most well-known female filmmaker from Central Europe Agnieszka Holland’s 1990 masterpiece Europa Europa has also made it on the BBC’s list. Nominated for the Academy Award in the Best Screenplay category, ‘Europa Europa’ follows the incredible adventure – inspired by real events – of a young Jewish boy who, separated from the rest of his family at the beginning of World War II, poses as a German orphan and eventually goes on to join the Hitler Youth. Agnieszka Holland has written and directed more than 50 movies over the course of her incredibly prolific career, more recently directing several episodes of Netflix’s dystopian TV-series ‘1983’.
6. Daisies, by Věra Chytilová (1966) – Czech Republic
“Today it is clear that Daisies, a collaborative effort of the finest artists in the Czechoslovak New Wave, with avant-garde montages, beautiful set design and superb photography, was among the best films to come out of that decade”, writes film critic Hynek Pallas.
One of the first feature films directed by filmmaker Věra Chytilová at the height of the Czechoslovak New Wave in the 1960’s, ‘Daisies’ tells the gripping stories of two teenage girls, both named Marie, who embark on a freewheeling destructive path to spoil the world and environment they live in. Perceived as an unabashed and farcical criticism of the regime and embodiment of the Prague Spring, that would erupt two years later, the movie was immediately banned by censors and Věra Chytilová, widely seen as one of the most influential Czech avant-garde directors, forbidden to work for several years after its release.
Interviewed by Czech Radio, film critic Hynek Pallas argues that “Daisies is still revolutionary today, because the norms that it confronts in society still have more than a ring of truth in today’s society”.