Women Survivors in Cinema

The Issue of Madness
  • Esther Fuchs


Films about women survivors tend to portray them as profoundly troubled individuals, whose lives end in self-destruction.1 In the best cases, the point of these films is to dramatize the ongoing impact of the Holocaust on the lives of survivors. They often seek to validate the perception that the Holocaust is a profoundly mutilating and deforming event and that in the case of survivors it has a psychological after-life. When the attempt is to elicit empathy for the characters most films seize on romantic and tragic narrative conventions. More often than not, the films portray these women in traditional male-dependent roles. The sexual and maternal roles assigned to most of the characters enclose them in a domestic universe of traditional femininity. The ‘older’ survivors tend to fall into the conventional cinematic category of the aging woman, polarized as saint or shrew.2 The story of the woman’s survival is the story of her eventual demise, suggesting a certain death wish, or mythical masochism, thus validating yet another female stereotype.3 The plot in most of these films hinges on a process of degeneration, mental breakdown and death. Films like I Love You Rosa, The Summer of Aviya and Enemies: A Love Story strive to create the illusion of ordinary women, but this ordinariness is often shaped by an ideology of female propriety. What is most disturbing is the reliance on the trope of female instability.4 Most women in these films are portrayed as both ignorant and mentally fragile. The women’s perceptions do not concur with what the films construct as ‘reality’. With the exception of Sophie’s Choice, which focuses on a gentile woman, most of the films I will discuss barely explain or dramatize the specific events, or memories that interfere with the victim’s appropriate interpretation of her social reality.


Jewish Woman Secondary Character Nonsexual Woman Holocaust Survivor Maternal Role 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Esther Fuchs

There are no affiliations available

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