Something Different is a feminist Czech New Wave gem featuring an Olympic icon | Film of the Week

Something Different is a feminist Czech New Wave gem featuring an Olympic icon | Film of the Week

5 August 2021

Věra, a housewife in 1960’s Czechoslovakia, struggles with her rebellious son and indifferent, unappreciative husband. Overwhelmed and exasperated, she finds an escape from her frustrations in an extramarital affair. Meanwhile, Olympic gold medal winner and gymnast Eva Bosáková is training for the 1962 World Championship in Prague. When she starts to lose motivation, her coach forces her to do grueling and humiliating training sessions, refusing to listen to her concerns.

Although the two narratives develop simultaneously, Věra’s trials and tribulations are fictional, while Bosáková’s story is a reenactment of the gymnast’s life, played by Bosáková herself. Other than one card game scene at the beginning of the film, the women’s lives never intersect — yet the two narratives are poignantly tied together as we unravel women’s struggles in a male-dominated world.

Released in 1963, the film was the first feature of Věra Chytilová, who went on to become one of the most prominent names in 20th-century Czech cinema. Something Different is also considered one of the breakout films of the Czech New Wave: the 1960s Czechoslovak films, ranging from avant-garde epics to black comedies, that touched on political and social topics and rarely managed to escape censorship.

Blending documentary-style footage with drama, and shot in gorgeous black and white, the seamless interweaving of fact and fiction in Something Different is extraordinary, as is the juxtaposition of both women’s stories. The film was screened at Cannes in 1964, and its growing fame has earned it recent screenings in festivals such as Karlovy Vary or Amsterdam’s International Documentary Film Festival. It remains an astonishing watch, and a thought-provoking look at what, half a century later, has and hasn’t changed in women’s lives.

Watch on MUBI.

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