What’s new in the cinema – “Cascadeuses”: the double that women plug remains in the shadows – culture


They allow themselves to be beaten, beaten, thrown down the stairs: in the film, the doubles play pure victims much more often than their male counterparts. The Swiss documentary “Cascadeuses” by Elena Avdija gets to the bottom of the stunts of the victims.

In real life, Petra Sprecher is extremely defensive and witty, and not just when she talks. She for years she has worked in Los Angeles as a stuntman.

He started with the Basilisk youth circus in Basel. As a trapeze artist for Cirque de Soleil, he became a star in the world.

Woman with short hair, dark underneath, light curly hair, puts on makeup in the mirror.


Among other things, Petra Sprecher worked on “Aeon Flux” as Charlize Theron’s stunt double and training partner.

Band Apart Movies

Later he went to Los Angeles and flew through the air as a stunt double in productions such as “Flight” with Denzel Washington, in “Pirates of the Caribbean” or in “Eagle Eye”.

Looking for female victims

But soon the “Flying Acts” in Hollywood became rarer, and little by little they sought out female victims for crime films: “Then you are the one who is raped, beaten, pushed down the stairs…”, says Petra Sprecher.

Suddenly, the sovereign elegance of the circus performer is no longer required, but a convincing victim attitude. No straight knees, but a believable drop.

Struck ready for the movie

The experience that Petra Sprecher had only a few years later in Los Angeles is the daily life of French stuntwomen, the “Cascadeuses”. Together with Petra Sprecher, you are at the center of Elena Avdija’s Swiss documentary.

Elena Avdija remembers with a smile that she originally started her film project out of a fascination with the hard work of stunt women.

But then he quickly realized that these were predominantly female victims of violence. And that until now hardly anyone has noticed this significant side of the film industry.

The stunt doubles in the shadows

Therefore, she was interested in what remained in the dark, says Elena Avdija. Anything that is shot so grandly for the movies requires stuntmen to stay in the blind spot: “Stunts are part of movie magic. The way they are made must remain invisible, that is why the specialists remain in the shadows. And in the shadow of the shadow are the doubles.”

Several women in the gym are holding sticks, bent over.  A young man in the middle.


Hard Training: The documentary also shows how much hard work goes on behind the scenes.

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The question of who suffers more violence and how the female body is portrayed on screen quickly arises, says Elena Avdija. In her documentary “Cascadeuses” she shows him in a chilling montage of sacrificial stunts in a whole series of European films.

The script dictates the body image.

Women are raped, beaten, dragged by the hair, run over or strangled. These are not scenes from extreme movies, but from normal TV and movie dramas.

on the right an older woman with her hair tied up in a T-shirt, on the left a man with his hands in the air.  In a parking lot.


The script dictates: the specialists execute. The film centers on stunt doubles Virginie, Petra, and Estelle.

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Of course, the doppelgangers reinforce these body images with their heroic efforts. The documentary filmmaker also sees it that way. But there is the issue of empowerment. Stunts have no influence on scripts, often not even knowing exactly what is required until shortly before shooting begins.

Control over how the female body is staged and represented in general rests with the filmmakers and screenwriters, says Elena Avdija. She speaks in a masculine way: “These are still male-dominated professions.”

Theatrical release: 11.17.2022

SRF 2 culture, arts in conversation, November 17, 2022, 9:03 am

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