The Painted Bird
Panorama | Special Presentations
The material beauty, the formal compositions, the lustrous black-and-white shadows and light, the deep focus, and the wide-screen staging in Václav Marhoul’s stunning adaptation of Jerzy Kosiński’s controversial 1965 novel/memoir puts it on par - cinematographically speaking - with masterpieces of Soviet cinema like Andrei Rublev and Come and See. The story of one abandoned Jewish child’s (newcomer Petr Kotlár) wanderings through the hell that was the Polish countryside during WWII, and his encounters with various Nazis, peasants and fellow lost souls (played by a who’s who of international art-film stars, including Stellan Skarsgård, Harvey Keitel, Julian Sands, and Udo Kier, among others), is depicted with a force and a violence that will shake you to the core.
Marhoul spent a decade trying to bring this singular work to fruition, and it shows in every stylistically impressive detail. As the child suffers through a world of fallen-man stupidity and terrible cruelty, it becomes abundantly clear that this serial tale of endurance otherwise beyond imagination carries an indictment of present-day attitudes. Yes, this is a very harsh film that doesn’t shrink from the depiction of the extreme and chaotic violence of the time – but it is also truly breathtaking, and a must-see.