Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders (1970) – Duality Through Sound And Vision (Part 2).

Part 1.

Innocence and Sexuality.

As already suggested, Valerie is first and foremost about the links, barriers and cross-over between innocence and sexuality.  Whilst some characters (for example, the religious fundamentalists), believe there to be a strict differentiation between the two, the film and Valerie herself know that this is not the case; if anything, it is the watermark of the patriarchy that such a belief system exists.  The film does, however, question these two aspects from all possible angles, meaning that it ultimately comes across as a duality of vision and a natural progression of Freudian questioning.

The tipping point for the film is when Valerie comes on her first period, an event acknowledged by the visual of blood dripping from a daisy.  This visual alone is drenched in symbolism; after all Valerie has been shown to wear such daisies in the film and are an item often linked with carefree past-times and spring time.  The analysis could be left at that if film wasn’t such an audio-visual medium but the visual has an audible counterpart.  Alongside this visual segment is Valerie’s main musical theme, titled The Magic Yard on the soundtrack album.

This theme begins with high-pitched, almost whimsical instrumentation such as the xylophone motif and the flute melody lines that seem to capture the film in its totality.  The whole mise-en-scene of the film is designed to highlight Valerie’s initial innocence, from the white dress she wears to the white room and bed in which she sleeps.  The instrumentation of the score automatically enhances and highlights this aspect further, almost symbolising Valerie through the single flute melody line.  It’s a typical musical technique used in a variety of films, the difference here though being that the textures underneath hint towards the darkness that lurks beneath the film; in other words, films that do use this sort of technique often have little else to highlight and are far from the complex nature of Valerie.

Other elements in the score also add to this, for example the children’s voices singing as well the constant arpeggios of the harp lines.  But in many ways, this is the background to the main melody which gradually splits from the flute and is reinforced by some other, more solidified woodwind instrument.  Whilst the main theme begins with just the flute, by the time the voices come into the section, the flute has dropped away to leave the more confident melody line riding over the waves of the repeated triplets of the strings and harp.  Valerie is riding this wave, only her outcome is more obvious; a matured journey from innocence to the start of puberty.

Elsewhere, this new found sexuality and its duality with innocence and fantasy is given other, more startling musical elements.  The darker elements that are opened up to Valerie are given an atonal typicality which belies the potential nostalgia for the age of innocence.  The film does veer down this pathway in the most confident of ways by the sheer creation of the Weasel creature, let alone his musical presence.  His creation is ultimately negative and, whilst he seems to be part of Valerie’s initial design to change, the music suggests that such a presence is still one that is potentially evil.  His actions verge on the predatory and the mystery of his character is highlighted by a clash of tonality between his own musical themes and the more jaunty diegetic musical themes of the carnival procession.

Valerie also presents a clash between music and visual for various scenes involving Weasel, many of which take advantage of the duality initially set up between sound and vision.  The almost lullaby-like theme of The Punishment (a title which goes squarely against its musical character) is juxtaposed against this creature, as are a number of other tracks, meaning that the evolution of Valerie is hinted at being something that will always be accompanied by darker elements.  This is a world where the beginnings of such a change do effect the actions of people around Valerie and Jireš’ seems keen to highlight that this is often in the negative (especially as we will see in the film’s aesthetic stance on religion).

Even the track, Disquiet, features a lullaby form which plays quite disturbingly against the more fantastical elements of Valerie’s awakening; it is an ironic musical play for a narrative about an “awakening” of forms to be accompanied so much by music which is designed to induce sleep.  The duality of the film is pushed to the very limits, if only to show the flipside of what should be an exciting time for the main character.  Nostalgia is again at work as a force upon Valerie and her narrative world and the clash between the aural and the visual aesthetics is pushing the viewer and the character to initially believe that all was really better in the days before the bloodied daisy; when the white of Valerie’s room was not distorted and contorted into nightmarish visions.

Part 3.

Adam Scovell

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