24th Feb2020

‘Valerie And Her Week of Wonders’ Blu-ray Review (Second Run)

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Jaroslava Schallerová, Helena Anýzová, Petr Kopriva, Jirí Prýmek, Jan Klusák, Libuse Komancová, Karel Engel, Alena Stojáková, Otto Hradecký | Written and Directed by Jaromil Jires


A Czechoslovakian cult classic, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, based on a novel written by the poet, Vitezslav Nezval, was adapted to the screen and directed by Jaromil Jires (The Joke, The Dance Teacher), a film-maker associated mostly with his prominence during the Czech New-Wave of cinema in the 60’s. This, probably his seminal film, has now found a home on Blu-ray in the UK thanks to Second Run (the film is out there on Criterion in the States too), and I was happy to sit down again and experience this masterpiece of Czech art cinema for the first time in a few years.

Ethereal from the outset, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders almost resembles a 60’s experimental film made by students, the opening credits look amateur in a way, but that quickly changes. Surreal, in an engaging way, it immediately confuses with unusual imagery and scenes of girls bathing in a lake, one of whom proceeds to kiss a fish before stuffing it into her blouse, a strange man stealing Valerie’s earrings, and Valerie finding a daisy splattered with drops of blood. This, all in the first five minutes, opens questions and allows us insight into the tone we should expect.

The story, without spoiling things for those of you who haven’t seen it, and without giving away the surprising elements and scenarios that make the film such an entrancing one, we follow Valerie, a young girl who is staying with her Grandmother while her parents are away. She gets her first period during this time, and this causes vampires to come to her village. Her Grandmother is turned young again by one of these vampires and she begins to tell people that she is Valerie’s young relative. Valerie is then put through numerous trials which she manages to cope with due to a strange protective set of earrings that she wears. Using mythological folklore, we witness the sexual awakening of the teenage Valerie through a variety of scenarios she finds herself in, during her aforementioned “week of wonders”.

It begins strangely, as it means to go on. Our lead, Jarsoslava Schallerova was fourteen at the time of the films’ release and this was her first job as an actress and became the film that her career became synonymous with. Her doll-like features and expressions, as well as her childish and naïve nature go to creating a character that fits into the fairy-tale like prose in a seamless way. She’s magnificent in the role, and deals well with the utterly bizarre material she had placed on her lap with this film.

It is rather shocking to see a young actress involved in scenes of lesbianism, torture, incest and sexual liberation, among other things. While nothing is graphic, the mere themes we witness are pretty damn crazy when you consider how young Schallerova was when she made the film. It doesn’t make the film disturbing though, due to the avoidance of going too far, but it remains unavoidable that watching a young character in these situations can be uncomfortable to watch. I will also say that personally, the use of animal killing in the film, while minimal and relevant to the story, was something I felt was avoidable. I am aware that this was made during a different time and it isn’t the only film to use this (Cannibal Holocaust and Wake of Fright’s depictions of animal deaths were far more graphic, and far worse) but I would have preferred to have seen it avoided.

There is a use of birds here, regularly, often being trapped or set free, a metaphor possibly for the lecherous vampires that prey on the youth and target Valerie and their wanting to imprison her as well as the imprisonment and eventual freedom of sexual expression that comes along with growing up. Their mission to steal her innocence bringing a horror to the film that is reminiscent of the classic F. W. Murnau gothic tale, Nosferatu while the folksy surreal fantasy resembles Alice in Wonderland. The imagery, and the tone, much of the time, reminded me of Nosferatu, and the shadowy and dark figures of the bull-whipping demonic vampires’ offers one of the more creepy versions of the legend that I’ve personally witnessed. Erotically charged, the film is certainly something that couldn’t be made today, especially with certain themes being explored with an actress of a certain age.

The Blu-ray is nicely cleaned up but with some of the grain remaining to remind us of the era, the use of vivid and bright colours in the film give it a fantastical type of energy and the use of these colours isn’t just used randomly. We see white and shining lights to signify religion and purity, while we see black to signify evil and a change to a more macabre tone. We see Valierie herself take on these two sides of the coin during the movie. This theme is relevant and significant throughout. The folktale style and wonderfully chipper musical score from Lubos Fiser and Jan Klusak brings whimsy and allows us to get a feel for the time period we are witnessing, as well as the closed-off community that inhabits the story. The misty grassland, the babbling brooks and the swaying trees offer a beautiful location which is contrasted greatly by the gothic crypts we see at other times, filled with bones and coffins and red candles.

Evocative, completely surreal and told in a dreamlike way, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is musical, offbeat, beautiful and at times rather dark. While it will confuse some to the point of frustration, it will also unequivocally seduce others with its eccentricity and its wonderful lead performance. Haunting, and with genuinely creepy moments of classic gothic horror, I was enchanted by the film, and though there are always moments where I lose track of the bizarre things that are happening on screen, I always manage to find my way back onto the path and wind up satisfied at where the path finds itself as the film comes to a close.

The Second Run Blu-ray is a real step up from their DVD release a few years back, featuring a nice array of features, a booklet and of course the new HD transfer, it’s well worth upgrading to, or picking up if you haven’t seen the film, or want a refresher. Another quality release from the folks over there, this is a surrealistic but colourfully wacky movie that never fails to raise my eyebrow.


  • Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (Valerie a týden div , 1970) presented from a brand new HD transfer of the film from original materials by the Czech National Film Archive.
  • The Projection Booth audio commentary.
  • Filmed introduction by film historian Michael Brooke.
  • Interview with actor Jaroslava Schallerová.
  • Jaromil Jire short films:
    – Uncle (Strejda, 1959)
    – Footprints (Stopy, 1960)
    – The Hall of Lost Footsteps (Sál ztracených krok , 1960)
  • Trailer
  • Booklet featuring writing by Peter Hames and Joseph A. Gervasi
  • New and improved English subtitle translation.
  • Region free Blu-ray (A/B/C)
  • Original soundtrack in 2.0 Stereo 24-bit LPCM audio

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is available now on Blu-ray from Second Run.


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