Karol Jóźwiak

Panel 3E Cinematic Transcodifications/2
Session 3 – July 2, 11:00 – 13:00

WWII Trauma Transcodified in Cinema: The Case of Michał Waszynski’s Italian Films

The paper will analyze the contexts of two Michal Waszynski’s films produced in Italy in 1948: La grande strada and Lo sconosciuto di San Marino. Both films were considered business collapses and had extremely poor reception. Despite many factors, such as collaboration with Cesare Zavattini on the screenplay, and starring of such famous actors as Vittorio De Sica and Anna Magnani, the films were criticized for being too cheesy and banal. Almost at once they fell into oblivion. I suppose they were totally misunderstood by the audience, as well as the prominent polish director, very successful in the interwar period, was underestimated. The narratives of both films are not their focus. The films indeed narrate sentimental and superficial love stories, but their very meaning lay elsewhere. They describe both cinematically and meta-cinematically traumas of the polish survivors of the WWII. The first film consisted in majority of archival material registered by the director himself during his participation in the long campaign of the polish army, ending up in the Monte Cassino battle and the liberation of Bologna. Moreover, the starring of real persons, such as the head of Polish Army general Anders, or the main character (polish partisan, Nazi concentration camp prisoner and holocaust witness), made this film a kind of firs hand testimony. In the second film the trauma of the Nazi mass murder of polish civilians during the Warsaw upspring is both approached from the victims and oppressors’ points of view, and is a constant background to the main narrative. This way, I suppose Waszynski aimed at describing recent war traumas under the guise of a melodrama stories. Thus, this guise was meant to be a device to transmit an uncomfortable message expulsed by the postwar society. 


Karol Jóźwiak – researcher at the Culture Studies Department of the University of Lodz. He holds PhD in culture studies (dissertation on Pasolini’s semiotic theory), and he has recently concluded his post-doc internship at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris III (Laboratoire International de Recherches en Arts) funded by Polish National Research Center. His main research areas address different issues of European transnational functioning of art and cinema in relation to the questions of memory, writing history, identity and politics in XX century. Moreover, he works as an art critic and curator, collaborating with different institutions in Poland and in Europe on exhibitions of XX century art. Currently he supervises the research project entitled “Sovietophilia in Post-Fascist Italian Film Culture” (funded by Polish National Research Center).