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Difficult subjects: women, violence and subjectivity in distinguished cinema

posted on 16.02.2017, 03:03 by Loreck, Janice Peta
Film and cultural studies scholars have conducted numerous critical analyses of violent women in popular cinema: from the female monsters of horror film and the vigilantes of exploitation cinema to the femmes fatales of film noir and the muscular heroines of action cinema. However, few studies have examined the depiction of violent women outside the domain of popular film. This thesis addresses this omission by investigating violent women in a series of texts positioned in counter-distinction to popular genres, such as the art-house films Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis, 2001), Antichrist (Lars von Trier, 2009) and The Book of Revelation (Ana Kokkinos, 2006), prestige pictures Monster (Patty Jenkins, 2003) and The Reader (Stephen Daldry, 2008) and festival films Sister My Sister (Nancy Meckler, 1994) and Fun (Rafal Zielinski, 1994). Posing this grouping as “distinguished cinema” because of their special status in critical discourse, I argue that these texts creatively respond to the challenge that the violent woman makes to hegemonic conceptions of feminine non-violence. Distinguished films share a structuring epistemophilia or “desire-to-know” the violent woman’s ontology that arises from the exclusion of violent femininity within cultural discourse. Proceeding from this, each chapter examines how these films produce the violent female subject via the mechanisms of narrative, the structures of film form and the processes of spectatorship. By undertaking this research, this thesis extends critical knowledge about the violent woman by illuminating how distinguished cinema texts construct her subjectivity.


Principal supervisor

Belinda Smaill

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Media, Film and Journalism


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts