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VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS
DVD region 2. Second Run DVD.

Valerie and Her Week of WondersHaving languished, relatively unnoticed on the film society circuit for years, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders first grabbed the wider attention of cult film fans with the Redemption VHS release in 1993, enabling this forgotten work of visionary genius rapidly found a new, obsessive fan base. This DVD cranks up the quality levels by several notches, making it the essential purchase of the year. Whichever film you were thinking about buying next, forget it – this is the one you need.

Valerie… is a stunning beautiful 1970 Czech production, telling the story of Valerie, a hauntingly pretty thirteen-year old girl in the midst of transformation from childhood to womanhood (the story opens as she has her first period). She has adventures - which may or may not be fantasies - involving her ghostly grandmother, the vampiric Constable and Eagle, who may or may not be her father and brother respectively, and a lecherous visiting missionary who tries to seduce her and, when unsuccessful, denounces her as a witch.

All this is filmed in a haze of lyrical and poetic images, creating a magical, fairytale atmosphere, awash with colour and joyous sensuality. The film can easily be compared to both The Company of Wolves and Lemora – A Child’s tale of the Supernatural, both of which share the theme of a young girl coming of age in a supernatural setting. And while both those films are masterpieces, Valerie probably outdoes both in terms of atmosphere, truly stunning imagery and ideas. The feeling of magic that the film invokes is infectious – despite the horror movie elements, the whole story is awash with the joy of living and the beauty of nature.

Valerie and Her Week of WondersIn many ways, this is an impossible film to review – there are no words that can capture its breathtaking beauty adequately. Everything about it is as perfect as any film can be – the cast, Jaromil Jires’ sensitive direction, and the wonderful score (now on CD), which gently evokes the sense of wonder that Valerie is feeling at the changes taking place around and within her.

Second Run’s DVD gives the film the treatment it deserves – a shiny new transfer from the negative, a video interview with Jaroslava Schallerova who played Valerie and a nice booklet are among the contents.

But this film needs nothing extra to sell it – it remains an essential masterpiece that you may well think is better than anything you’ve ever seen.

DAVID FLINT

BUY IT NOW (UK)

BUY IT NOW (USA)

 

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