Challenging the boundaries of cinema's rape-revenge genre in Katalin Varga and Twilight Portrait

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4 Citations (Scopus)


In contemporary art-house appropriations of the rape-revenge genre, the conventions, affects and expectations of this ‘low cultural’ form are manipulated to deepen the understanding of the impact of rape on its victims and to challenge the inevitability and righteousness of revenge as a response to this crime. Katalin Varga (Peter Strickland, 2009) and Portret v sumerkakh/Twilight Portrait (Angelina Nikonova, 2011) are exemplars of this shift in the rape-revenge genre, confounding generic expectations and conventions to achieve an ethical positioning in which the spectator is asked to reassess the ethics and effectiveness of revenge. Through this ethical interrogation, the rape-revenge genre tests its own boundaries, its own assumptions and the spectatorial pleasures it has traditionally offered. The genre's characteristic affects of shame, rage and disgust are challengingly redeployed to different political and ethical ends. Katalin Varga and Twilight Portrait locate themselves first within, and then against, the rape-revenge genre, and, in so doing, offer reconsiderations of the affective experience of rape victimization and the contrasting responses of revenge and restorative justice while also pointing to the radical potential of the contemporary genre.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-145
Number of pages13
JournalStudies in European Cinema
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • rape-revenge
  • genre
  • affect
  • ethics
  • Katalin Varga
  • Twilight Portrait


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