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In film theory, melodrama has been recognized as the most dominant mode of organizing the cinematic aesthetic, especially in the context of Hollywood cinema. However, the exorbitant focus on Hollywood films in film theory has resulted in ignoring the influence of melodrama on other national cinemas – such as the Polish national cinema. Polish filmmakers have been historically acclaimed for their realist or political works, hence confining the cinematic produce of Poland to one specific niche. Moreover, much of the theoretical and critical discussion around melodrama has been centered on concepts provided by the Freudian or Lacanian psychoanalytical framework – that aim to understand the politics of gender in cinema. This paper foregrounds the melodramatic cliché or convention of subjecting the female character to sustained suffering. This paper is interested in extending beyond the psychoanalytical perspective, and argues that one of the principle ways in which a melodrama systematically victimizes and defeats the character of a woman, is through her body. Although, the striking feature of a melodrama is its capacity to stimulate visceral reactions in its audiences, through subjecting the bodies of the characters on screen to certain visceral experiences – the body is often a neglected site/sight of focus, in melodrama studies. This paper aims to specifically examine the ways in which the female body is targeted in a melodrama. It employs the socio-political theory of ‘body politics’ derived from the Foucauldian school of thought, to inspect the varied ways in which the body of the female protagonist is monitored, disciplined and controlled – leading to her subjugated and overall doomed portrayal. This paper closely studies the understated Polish melodrama Cold War (2018) directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, as an exemplary film serving this hypotheses.
Keywords: film, melodrama, Polish cinema, body politics, female protagonist, victimization