Negotiating Tropes of Madness: Trauma and Identity in Post-Yugoslav Cinemas

  • Dejan Levi

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis examines how madness has been used in post-Yugoslav cinemas to facilitate thinking about experiences of the break-up of the SFRY throughout the 1990s and 2000s, its consequences and implications for the future. The study conceptualises post-Yugoslav film cultures as public spheres in which artistic and industrial practices are often combined to create meaning around the core themes of trauma and identity in post-Yugoslav cultures. Working with seven feature-length titles from a range of post-Yugoslav successor states (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia and Kosovo) I illustrate how images of madness have been essential in the cultural processing of events of the 1990s. Whilst featuring individuals suffering mental instabilities and disturbances, and sometimes asylums or mental health institutions, I contend such films are not ultimately concerned - on a thematic level - with mental health, but instead focus on the use of such characters in a metaphoric capacity for engaging core themes of Yugoslav break-up, conflicts, and difficulties of subsequent transition. Using the semantic/syntactic approach to genre, I identify two common ways in which madness is used on a textual level to engage these core themes. The first of these, the 'inside-out asylum trope of madness', is concerned with the use of the asylum in films which assess critically the dominant political ideologies of the successor states in question at a time when political pluralism was not yet established by the transition process. Films discussed include Burlesque Tragedy (Markovic, 1995), Marshall Tito's Spirit (Brešan, 1999), and Kukumi (Qosja, 2005). The second trope is the 'multiple realities trope of madness' in which the presentation of diegetic reality on screen is adapted to reflect various conceptualisations of trauma and loss arising from Yugoslav break-up and transition. Here the films include Loving Glances (Karanovic, 2003), Fuse (Žalica, 2003), Mirage (Ristovski, 2004) and Land of Truth, Love and Freedom (Petrovic, 2000). Across the films selected, it is madness which ultimately provides a diverse pool of metaphors and images for an assessment of Yugoslavia's traumatic demise and the ensuing process of picking through the debris of its ideology, cultural practices, values and ways of living for precisely what might be salvageable and what should be discarded.
Date of Award1 Aug 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorStephen Hutchings (Supervisor) & Adelina Angusheva-Tihanov (Supervisor)


  • Montenegro
  • Macedonia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Kosovo
  • Croatia
  • Serbia
  • Slovenia
  • Yugoslavia
  • Trauma
  • Madness
  • post-Yugoslav cinema
  • Film studies
  • Identity

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