|KATYN (director/writer:; screenwriters: based on the novel "Post Mortem" by Andrzej Mularczyk/Wladyslaw Pasikowski/Przemyslaw Nowakowski; cinematographer: Pawel Edelman; editors: Milenia Fiedler Rafal Listopad; music: Krzysztof Penderecki; cast: Maja Ostaszewska (Anna), Artur Zmijewski (Andrzej), Andrzej Chyra (Jerzy), Magdalena Cielecka (Agnieszka), Agnieszka Glinska (Irena) Jan Englert (General), Danuta Stenka (General's wife); Runtime: 121; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Michal Kwiecinski; Koch Lorber Films; 2007-Poland-in mostly Polish, and some German and Russian, with English subtitles)|
was the film Wajda wanted to make all his life."
by Dennis Schwartz
of 22,000 Poles, with some 15, 000 being
Polish military officers and the rest civilians.
It's a fictional take on the real tragedy that was
carried out in secret in the Katyn forest on
Stalin's orders and consequently blamed on the
Nazis. The cover-up is believed by the Poles
throughout the Cold War, revealing that the Soviet
occupation of Poland was no different than the
Nazi's cruel one. Wajda's father was one of the
Polish officer's executed, which occurred when the
future director was only 14. This was the film that
Wajda wanted to make all his life.
Wajda based the
film on the novel "Post Mortem" by Andrzej
Mularczyk, unfortunately it is poorly written by Wajda,
Wladyslaw Pasikowski and Przemyslaw Nowakowski. The
harrowing film, both a personal one and one made for
his country, graphically shows the slaughter in the
film's memorable concluding 10-minute
sequence (one of the most powerful climaxes I
can recall) and supplies details in
a documentary-like manner that is good cleansing
material for a country so deeply affected. It also
shows through its fictional characters how the
occupied Poles lived through the Nazi years.
pic follows four fictional families, as it
crisscrosses their story-lines. The main story is
about Anna (Maja Ostaszewska), a mother
supposedly meant to be Wajda's, who in 1939,
at a time when Hitler and Stalin have a pact, arrives
in Cracow in search of her husband Andrzej (Artur
Zmijewski), a captured Polish officer who out of
respect for doing one's duty refuses to abandon his
cavalry unit to run away with her despite her pleas.
Soon afterwards the regiment is shipped to eastern
Poland for internment, where the Hitler-Stalin pact
allowed the Soviets to rule, while the Germans in 1939
marched into the remainder of Poland without much of a
highlighted families include an interned
general (Jan Englert) and his proud wife (Danuta
Stenka), who refuse to knuckle under to Nazi pressure
to campaign against the Soviets. The shameful
story of a survivor, Andrzej’s friend Jerzy (Andrzej
Chyra), who climbs the Communist Party ladder in
Poland after the war by lying for the Soviets by
falsely saying the massacre in Katyn was by the Nazis.
The fourth story-line follows Jerzy’s sisters
Agnieszka (Magdalena Cielecka) and Irena (Agnieszka
Glinska), who rebel against Poland's postwar Communist
The pic's documentary part has the Germans in April 1943 announce the discovery of mass graves of Poles at Katyn with no explanation. On January 18, 1945 Cracow is liberated by the Red Army, and the Soviet propagandist newsreels blame the Germans for the massacre at Katyn. What Wajda masterfully does, despite the film being uneven as it shifts too awkwardly into scenes that don't seem continuous, is to slowly bring in the overwhelming details surrounding the massacre and reveal precisely what took place in the spring of 1940 when the Polish officer internees were transported by railroad east to Smolensk and then mechanically killed by the Soviet military before buried in a mass grave.
popular history drama did a big box office in Poland,
as the grim atmospheric period film shuns
sentimentality and uncovers the hurtful truth. It
leaves one as a witness to a horrific incident in
history, one the Polish people have lived with for a
long time and have seen it controversially divide the
REVIEWED ON 1/29/2014 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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