Written and directed by avant-garde filmmaker Věra Chytilová (Daisies, The Inheritance or Fuckoffguysgoodday), Something Different tells the story of the lives of two women: Eva Bosáková, a real-life gymnast training for her final performance, and Vera (Vera Uzelacová), a fictional housewife who lives an unfulfilled life. The film presents a nuanced look into the worlds of both women as they face the daily challenges that life brings upon them.
The opening sequence features Eva performing her routine until it cuts away to reveal that Vera’s son is watching it on TV. The film then intercuts between the lives of both women as they go about their everyday life. While one might assume that Eva’s life might be more interesting than Vera’s, I found myself equally invested in both stories. A lot of Eva’s days are spent practising for her final performance, while Vera’s days are consumed by housework as she raises her son at the same time—an equally exhausting balancing act.
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Eva strives for perfection but is sometimes unsure of her own abilities, while Vera is unsatisfied with her marriage and has a hard time taking care of her hyperactive son. Her husband barely pays any attention to her and would rather spend his time reading the newspaper. He tells her he does this because he can only read it after work, to which Vera replies, “my work is never done.” He also says he’s saving money for a car, which means Vera can’t buy anything for herself. This is frustrating for her as she also spends her days working, but never receives anything in return. This leads to her having an affair with a man she meets while buying groceries…
Meanwhile, Eva’s practice sessions consist of trial and error as she hones her skills until she is physically and mentally exhausted. The routine has consumed her life to the point that she has never even learned to cook due to the countless hours she’s spent on her craft. It’s interesting seeing how her calling in life, however fulfilling it may be, can still manage to take so much out of her at the same time. The decision to juxtapose the life of an athlete with the domestic life of a housewife, with no real narrative connection between the two, makes for a unique experience. There is never any point where the stories intersect, mostly working together thematically to convey the overall message of the film — the life of women in a male-dominated world.
The editing between the two is pretty inspired as well. Some cuts are incredibly fluid in the way that some motions start in one scene are continued in the next, making for a seamless transition. There are also clever ways of conveying the progression of time as the film cuts to multiple moments to highlight why Vera is unsatisfied with her life. These moments are mostly made up of arguments with her husband and instances where the role of a housewife becomes overwhelming. However, there are also a few glimpses of joy or contentment that are accentuated by the music.
The film benefits from having Eva play herself in a semi-biographical narrative of her life since she brings an air of realism and legitimacy to the film by performing moves only athletes at her level are capable of executing. She’s able to use her real-life experiences to accurately convey the physical and mental toll that comes as part of a gymnast’s life. The film also shows real-life footage of Eva’s incredible performance at the competition, and since the film actually took the time to show the amount of work it takes to prepare for such an event, it makes it that much more rewarding when we see her final performance.
The relationship with the men in their lives plays a huge role in the film. Eva has a good relationship with her training instructor, although things can get pretty heated whenever she becomes hesitant to perform the moves she finds dangerous. He expects greatness from her, which only adds more pressure for her to find perfection. Meanwhile, Vera can’t seem to find happiness with any of the relationships in her life. Her husband is incredibly dismissive of the sacrifices she’s made as a mother and a housewife, and her lover becomes so possessive that he can’t stand the sight of other men around her.
Věra Chytilová brilliantly conveys the life of women who are relegated to the roles assigned by the society in which they live. The women who dedicate their lives to being stay-at-home wives and mothers often go underappreciated, and the women who are consumed by their careers are held to a higher standard. They have to work twice as hard to become successful in a world where men hold the most power. This is a very insightful look into the experiences that go beyond the typical roles for women found in most films at the time. But above all, this is a shining example of why different perspectives are so valuable in the filmmaking process—to do these stories justice.