Title – The Painted Bird (2019)
Director – Václav Marhoul (Tobruk)
Cast – Petr Kotlár, Udo Kier, Barry Pepper, Stellan Skarsgård, Harvey Keitel, Julian Sands
Plot – On a solo journey through Eastern Europe during World War 2, young Jewish boy Joska (Kotlar) comes across a range of characters all dealing with their own trials and tribulations in a landscape that is fraught with danger and depravity.
“I want to go home!”
Review by Eddie on 17/02/2021
Based on controversial author Jerzy Kosinski’s much debated novel, a novel that was supposedly centred around Kosinski’s own experiences as a young boy growing up in the Nazi ravaged European landscape of World War 2 but has since been subject to many question marks, Václav Marhoul’s black and white adaptation of The Painted Bird is as bleak and uncompromising as its source material as we as an audience are taken on an almost irredeemably depressing journey alongside young boy Joska who must make his own way throughout Eastern Europe as he looks to survive a harsh and unforgiving world.
Winning a number of international film awards that includes wins at Venice and numerous Czech Lions, The Painted Bird is in many ways an important film and one that was strong enough to attract recognizable faces such as Harvey Keitel, Stellan Skarsgård, Udo Kier, Julian Sands and Barry Pepper to help bring it too life, but ones tolerance of such a bleak affair will be entirely different from viewer to viewer with many reports of mass walk-outs at screenings during festival showings feeling like they make entire sense when one witnesses the atrocities and depraved events littered throughout Joska’s journey.
Impressively played by young performer Petr Kotlár, Joska is a constant presence throughout the near three hour affair and while we get very little backstory of the young boy or even much dialogue of him throughout, we want to see him survive and find peace in a world that seems to have forgone the very things that make us human, which is why at times the film is near unbearable as Joska moves from place to place, only to find the same amount of pain and anguish awaiting him at every turn.
In a craftsmanship sense this world of The Painted Bird is undeniable high-class, Marhoul’s direction is that of an artist with a clear goal in mind and alongside his cinematographer Vladimír Smutný the two combine to ensure this feature film is a high-class production that will only ever be witnessed by a select few that at first find the film and then an even smaller collection that find themselves able to partake in such a painstakingly grim narrative.
You never want your war films to sugar-coat the horrors of what remains to this day the most devastating war of humankinds history but its hard at times to know exactly what The Painted Bird is wanting us to feel other than an all-encompassing sense of grief and despair at a young child’s harsh coming of age trial, even if in its all to brief final moments a glimmer of hope emerges in an otherwise pitch black vortex of sadness.
Final Say –
An impressively crafted and performed tale that will be far too much to bare for many viewers, The Painted Bird is a solid feat of filmmaking that is hard to recommended solely due to its intense and unfiltered subject matters.
3 1/2 cat snacks out of 5