Bodily Violence and Resistance in Wojtek Smarzowski’s Rose (Róża, 2011)

Open access


The article argues that Wojtek Smarzowski’s film Rose (Róża, Poland, 2011) undermines the dominant bigendered logic of screen death and suffering in the Polish films depicting the experience of World War II. In these films, there is a significant absence of images of female suffering and death, which is striking when compared to the abundant images of wounded and dying male bodies, usually represented as a lavish visual spectacle. This unrepresented female death serves as a ‘structuring absence’ that governs the systematic signifying practices of Polish cinema. Most importantly, it expels the female experience of World War II from the realm of history to the realm of the mythical. This representational regime has been established in the Polish national cinema during the 1950s, especially in Andrzej Wajda’s films, and is still proving its longevity. As the author argues, Smarzowski’s Rose is perhaps the most significant attempt to undermine this gendered cinematic discourse.

Specifically, the essay explores the ways in which Smarzowski’s Rose departs from previous dominant modes of representation of the World War II experience in Polish cinema, especially its gendered aspect.1 Firstly, it examines how Rose abandons the generic conventions of both war film and historical drama and instead, utilises selected conventions of melodrama to open up the textual space in which to represent the female experience of historical events. Then the author looks more closely at this experience and discusses the film’s representation of the suffering female body to argue that it subverts the national narrative of the war experience that privileges male suffering. A close analysis of the relationship between sound and image in the scenes of bodily violence reveals how the film reclaims the female body from the abstract domain of national allegory and returns it to the realm of individual embodied experience. The article concludes that Rose presents the female body as resisting the singular ideological inscription, and instead, portrays it as simultaneously submitting to and resisting the gendered violence of war.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Ahmed Sara 2004. The Cultural Politics of Emotion. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

  • Ahmed Sara; Stacey Jackie 2001. Thinking Through the Skin. London New York: Routledge.

  • Blanford Steven et al. 2001. The Film Studies Dictionary. London New York: Arnold.

  • Branche Raphaëlle; Delpla Isabelle; Horne John; Lagrou Pieter; Palmieri Daniel; Virgili Fabrice 2012. ‘Writing the History of Rape in Wartime’. – Raphaëlle Branche Fabrice Virgili (eds.) Rape in Wartime. New York: Palgrave Macmillan 1–16.

  • Brooks Peter 1976. The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac Henry James Melodrama and the Mode of Excess. New Haven London: Yale University Press.

  • Brown William 2013. ‘Violence in Extreme Cinema and the Ethics of Spectatorship’. – Projections 7 1 25–42.

  • Caes Christopher 2003. ‘Catastrophic Spectacles: Historical Trauma and the Masculine Subject in Lotna’. – John Orr Elżbieta Ostrowska (eds.) The Cinema of Andrzej Wajda: The Art of Irony and Defiance. London New York: Wallflower Press 116–131.

  • Cembrzyńska Patrycja 2014. ‘Wojenne spektakle gwałtu’. – DYSKURS: Pismo Naukowo-Artystyczne ASP we Wrocławiu 17 126–142. (9 July 2018).

  • De Pascalis Ilaria A. 2016. ‘The (In)Visibility of Violence: Jasmila Žbanić’s Post-War Cinema’. – European Journal of Women’s Studies 23 4 365–380.

  • Dunin Kinga; Szczawińska Weronika; Wiśniewska Agnieszka 2015. ‘Dunin Szczawińska Wiśniewska: Pan Tadeusz na Mazurach. Discussion’. – Krytyka Polityczna 6 March. (29 May 2018).

  • Dzida-Hamela Katarzyna 2015. ‘Autoreferat. Dokumentacja habilitacyjna’. (9 July 2018).

  • Evangelista Matthew 2011. Gender Nationalism and War: Conflict on the Movie Screen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Froula Anna 2014. ‘Preface’. – Karen A. Ritzenhof Jakub Kazecki (eds.) Heroism and Gender in War Films. New York: Palgrave Macmillan xi–xv.

  • Gusain Renuka 2008. ‘The War Body as Screen of Terror’. – Karen Randell Sean Redmond (eds.) The War Body on Screen. London: Bloomsbury Academic 36–49.

  • Hagelin Sarah 2013. Reel Vulnerability: Power Pain and Gender in Contemporary American Film and Television. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

  • Hayward Susan 2004. Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts. London New York: Routledge.

  • Jaworska Justyna 2012. ‘Róża i krew’. – Dialog 7–8 64–70.

  • Jelača Dijana 2016. Dislocated Screen Memory: Narrating Trauma in Post-Yugoslav Cinema. Basingstoke Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Kalinowska Izabela 2016. ‘From Political Engagement to Politics of Abjection in Polish Auteur Cinema: The Case of Wojtek Smarzowski’. – Seung-hoon Jeong Jeremi Szaniawski (eds.) The Global Auteur: The Politics of Authorship in 21st Century Cinema. London: Bloomsbury Academic 115–132.

  • Mackenzie Scott 2010. ‘On Watching and Turning Away: Ono’s RapeCinéma Direct Aesthetics and the Genealogy of Cinéma Brut’. – Dominique Russell (ed.) Rape in Art Cinema. New York: Continuum 159–170.

  • Morstin Agnieszka 2012. ‘Mocne filmy i głębokie kompleksy. Róża Wojtka Smarzowskiego wobec Jak być kochaną Wojciecha J. Hasa’. – Kwartalnik Filmowy 77–78 201–210.

  • Mroz Matilda 2016. ‘Displacement Suffering and Mourning Post-War Landscapes in Contemporary Polish Cinema’. – Sander Brouwer (ed.) Contested Interpretations of the Past in Polish Russian and Ukrainian Film: Screen as Battlefield. Laiden Boston: Brill Rodopi 59–76.

  • Ostrowska Elżbieta 2012. ‘Invisible Deaths: Polish Cinema’s Representation of Women in World War II’. – Helena Goscilo Yana Hashamova (eds.) Embracing Arms: Cultural Representation of Slavic and Balkan Women in War. Budapest New York: Central University Press 29–58.

  • Ostrowska Elżbieta 2016. ‘“What Does Poland Want from Me?”: Male Hysteria in Andrzej Wajda’s War Trilogy’. – Ewa Mazierska Matilda Mroz Elżbieta Ostrowska (eds.) The Cinematic Bodies of Eastern Europe and Russia: Between Pain and Pleasure. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 31–52.

  • Penn Robert 2010. It’s All about the Bike: The Pursuit of Happiness on Two Wheels. New York: Bloomsbury.

  • Randell Karen; Redmond Sean 2008. ‘Introduction: Setting the Screen’. – Karen Randell Sean Redmond (eds.) The War Body on Screen. London: Bloomsbury Academic 1–14.

  • Richardson Michael 2016. Gestures of Testimony: Torture Trauma and Affect in Literature. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

  • Scarry Elaine 1985. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. New York Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Szpulak Andrzej 2016. Róża. Poznań: Wydawnictwo Naukowe UAM.

  • Williams Linda 1998. ‘Melodrama Revised’. – Nick Browne (ed.) Refiguring American Film Genres: Theory and History. Berkeley Los Angeles London: University of California Press 42–88.

  • Wosk Julie 2001. Women and the Machine: Representations from the Spinning Wheel to the Electronic Age. Baltimore London: The John Hopkins University Press.

  • Zarzosa Augustín 2013. Refiguring Melodrama in Film and Television: Captive Affects Elastic Sufferings Vicarious Objects. Lanham Boulder New York: Lexington Books.

Journal information
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 147 131 9
PDF Downloads 106 88 4