The Body Politics of a Polish Melodrama: Cold War (2018)

Amarabati Bhattacharyya
Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts
Symbiosis International (Deemed University)


In film theory, melodrama has been recognized as a dominant mode of organizing the cinematic aesthetic, especially in the context of Hollywood cinema. However, this focus on Hollywood films 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. This paper foregrounds the melodramatic cliché of subjecting the female character to sustained suffering and is interested in employing the socio-political framework of ‘body politics’ to understand female subjugation that is so central to a melodrama. Body politics refers to state control over its subjects’ bodies. 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 similar experiences. This paper aims to closely read and analyze the Polish melodrama Cold War (2018), directed by Pawel Pawlikowski and attempts to understand the manifold ways in which the body of the female protagonist is monitored, disciplined and controlled, leading to her overall doomed portrayal.

Keywords: melodrama, Polish cinema, body politics, female protagonist, Cold War