New Article: “Exquisite cadaver” according to Stanisław Lem and Andrzej Wajda

Planet Lem, July 1, 2011 | © Courtesy of Kevan/Flickr.
Planet Lem, July 1, 2011 | © Courtesy of Kevan/Flickr.

Elżbieta Ostrowska

Published Online: 2018-06-28 | DOI:


The article examines Andrzej Wajda’s Roly Poly (Przekładaniec, 1968), a 35-minute film made for Polish public television, that is an expanded version of Stanisław Lem’s short grotesque play Do You Exist Mister Johns? (Czy Pan istnieje Panie Johns?) published in 1955. Roly Poly tells a story of a car race driver, Ryszard Fox. A victim of several car crashes, he gets so many transplants from other victims of these collisions, with his brother being a first donor, that eventually he becomes a mix of different organisms, including female and animal parts. Wajda presents the whole story in brief scenes and episodes using an aesthetic mix of black humor, grotesque, absurdism, surrealism, and pop art imagery. The author argues that with its narrative focus on transplant experiments and aesthetic concoction of different styles, Roly Poly becomes a cinematic variant of the surrealist parlor-game of exquisite cadaver, where an often accidental collection of words or images is assembled into a new entity. Furthermore, the article claims that the film presents a dystopian variant of Bakhtinian grotesque body and as such it opposes the concept of ideal, uniform, and homogenized communist/national body. Eventually, the body of transplants displays a transgressive potential of trespassing different divisions and hierarchies and as such it indirectly subverts the main premises of nationalistic politics led by Polish communist party in the late 1960s.

Featured Image Credits: Planet Lem, July 1, 2011 | © Courtesy of Kevan/Flickr.

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