Katyn (2007) Poster

(2007)

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10/10
Worth the Pain You May Feel
Danusha_Goska27 February 2010
I watched "Katyn" on a home computer screen. Even in that limited format, "Katyn" had an impact on me comparable to such cinematic greats as "Lawrence of Arabia." I cried throughout most of the film. I resolved that many of my relationships would be different. I remembered people I had known who reminded me of characters in the movie. After the film ended, I felt that I could not listen to the radio or read the newspaper or listen to anyone speak. I just needed to allow the film to sink into me.

Naysayers have critiqued "Katyn" as boring and dull. If you need a film to depict war, occupation, and atrocity as shiny, compact, and compelling as a sports car, then you should listen to those naysayers; don't watch "Katyn," rather, watch the very silly, teen fanboy-friendly Quentin Tarantino flic, "Inglorious Bastards." If you've seen enough Hollywood productions jam-packed with sexy Nazis and happy endings, and you want to take in a film that dares to depict, in eyeblinks, what war, atrocity, and occupation looked like and felt like to real people, then by all means see "Katyn." One of the many features that I admired: "Katyn"'s Nazis are not sexy. They are not Tom Cruise, Liam Neeson, Christoph Waltz. "Katyn"'s Nazis are brutal, repugnant thugs.

I respect this movie. There are too few movies about which I'd say that. It shows the courage not to attempt to weave an uplifting, feel-good atrocity narrative that leaves the viewer with a smile. This isn't "Schindler's List." "Schindler's List" is a very good movie, but this isn't that. It is, rather, very much like what World War Two and the subsequent Soviet occupation sounded like to me when I listened to my own older friends and relatives, who lived through both. This is disjointed narrative, stories that seem headed for redemption or even ecstasy but that end in random death, that end in aborted normalcy, aborted joy, aborted meaning. I felt, in watching these cold, pale, stoic characters, as if I were, once again, sitting across the table from older Eastern European friends and relatives. Yes, that's what they looked like. Yes, those are the facial expressions they assumed when they talked about the uncle who was rounded up and never heard from again, the daring, handsome lad who ended up in a mass grave – or when they pointedly did *not* talk about these people. The gravestone whose inscription dares to tell the truth; the tearing down of a propaganda poster; the Red Army soldier who struggles to do the right thing by a widow, who won't yet admit that she is a widow; the singing of exactly the right Christmas carol at exactly the right moment: those are exactly the heroic gestures that no one ever saw, that went unrecorded, that only one person lived to tell about, to tell me. Here they are, on screen.

When a movie is named "Katyn" the viewer knows how it will end; it's kind of like a movie named "Auschwitz" or "Kolyma" or "Wounded Knee." There isn't going to be a surprise ending. I was still surprised by the ending, by how courageous and moving I found it. Once again, Andrzej Wajda managed to wow the film-goer in me. And he managed to move the human in me.

See "Katyn." See a movie you can respect, a movie that is worth your time.
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9/10
A courageous film
lychowski17 February 2008
Katyn by Andrzej Wajda

A courageous film by a director who makes no concessions. Austerity instead of high-tech. What cineast of hallucinatory action, of nude and crude sensuality, of sequences full of monumental catastrophes would make a film in which one had scenes in a slower rhythm, without sex, with shadowy photography, with quiet music and giving ethical principles priority over the characters and their lives.

One more reason, however, for us to thank Hollywood for nominating this film to run for the Oscar for the best foreign film.

The Katyn massacre, perpetrated on Stalin's orders to eliminate the fine flower of the Polish intelligentsia, was left out of official Soviet history until the glasnost of Gorbatchov. There, in the Katyn forest and in other places as well, thousands of Polish officers were massacred. The Soviets tried to attribute it to the Nazis, but the truth eventually came to light. There is still, however, in Russia today, an attempt to deny the historical truth.

I would like to make my own the reading of the film which focuses on this question of the distortion of historical fact by the apparatus of the state. The official lie imposed by the Soviet occupation of Poland brought torment to the lives of many of the families of the victims. Wajda's denunciation, along with the cry "Never kill again!" can also serve as an alert for our present world, in which so often a virtual reality becomes a substitute for the truth.

The first group of interpretations belong to the women (wives, mothers, daughters) of the dead officers: how they coped, first with the hope of their return, and then with the definitive notice of their loss. They are marvellous interpretations, revealing the director's mastery and the talent of the actors. The portrayals demonstrate how, even when nothing else is left, there is still dignity. The wife of the dead General in Katyn refuses to endorse a declaration, prepared by the Nazis, denouncing the Soviets. The truth was known – why, then, should she play Hitler's propaganda game? He was just as much the enemy as Stalin was. Another woman wants to honour the memory of her brother by putting on the family tomb a stone with his name on it. Courageously she challenges the regime, but in vain - the stone is destroyed because on it the date of the officer's death indicates clearly who is to blame.

Most of the male characters were simply victims of massacre; among those who had the opportunity of showing themselves authentically noble was a Russian officer who tried to save his Polish neighbour and her daughter. "I couldn't save my own family but I can help yours." And it is a Polish officer who has changed sides who represents, in the middle of so much heroism, the weakness of some. "It is necessary to survive," he declared.

An entire population was suffocated by the Nazi and Soviet occupation. It is a shock to be shown in the film the cordial relations between the officials of the occupying powers, which would have been inconceivable in earlier years. Poland is partitioned (yet again!) by the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. In the Poland occupied by the Nazis all the professors of a university are summoned and arrested there and then (as a means of impeding the formation of future opposition). In the Poland occupied by the Soviets, the Polish officers are made prisoners of war (an efficient means of stopping them fighting for the independence of their country).

Pawel Edelman's photography is simply a work of genius, a mixture of sombre realism and the surreal. The music of Krzystof Penderecki fits the narrative like a glove, producing just the right atmosphere at the right time. The dry narrative style has something in common with a documentary and calls to mind another of his films, Love in Germany. And there is no lack of the symbolism present in all his films, this time with a remarkably religious tone.

In the development of the story there are moments taken from the films of that period – as, for example, the powerful exhumation of the dead, scenes which served Soviets and Nazis alike in placing the blame on each other.

For me the strongest images are those of the young man who refused to declare that his father had not been killed in Katyn by the Soviets; of the two waves of fugitives running in opposite directions and meeting in the middle of a bridge – which way to run? of the general who tried to animate his men in the last Christmas of their lives and of the little girl awaiting the return of her father. This last touched me in a special way, because I too had waited for my father's return at the end of the war.

Katyn is, without doubt, one of Andrzej Wajda's greatest films.

Tomasz Lychowski Rio de Janeiro, Brazil February, 2008.

Translated into English by Graham Connell
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9/10
Post Mortem Gloria et Lux Aeterna Victis
marcin_kukuczka14 October 2007
Are there words to express suffering, injustice, hypocrisy of war? May empathy ease the pain of those who lost hope for a better world?

There are many movies on WWII that appear to be more or less captivating, touching as well as educational. And, in this respect, we could easily rate this movie in that way if we treat KATYN as yet another film on WWII. However, the case here is different, more to say exceptionally unique.

Andrzej Wajda, after 18 years since the downfall of communist regime, fulfills the duty he feels to his parents and all Polish Patriots and makes a film on the theme that, not long ago, was not only forbidden to discuss in theater or cinema, but in all public places, the Truth that was prohibited and highly unwelcome, the Truth about the slaughter of more than 20,000 Polish best officers committed by Soviet communists in the forests of Katyn. Andrzej Wajda based his film on Andrzej Mularczyk's story POST MORTEM and consulted great Katyn witnesses, including recently deceased Priest Zdzislaw Peszkowski (1918-2007). If the film is good or weak belongs to the opinions of particular viewers. But lots of people on the premiere day stated that it's a historic work. Why?

KATYN, though a movie, is a wonderful documentary that supplies the viewer with TRUTHFUL information on what really happened in 1940, why it happened and who did this (facts that were most distorted in many historical books and many other sources for years). Here, the truth is more important than anything else. The movie contains archive footage, pictures and terrific narrator. These moments are well balanced and, though appearing several times, do not disturb anything but make for all the rest. And what is the rest?

The rest contains particularly vivid plots of families, their dreams, their fear, husbands/sons' honor, wives' love and care, and foremost young officers' martyrdom. The story of Andrzej (Artur Zmijewski) is exceptionally moving. His situation seems to represent the Poland of that time: torn between two oppressors, two worlds: Nazi Germany who attacked it on September, the 1st, 1939 and communist Russia who attacked it from the east 17 days later. As a victim of Katyn massacre, Andrzej appears to tell us a tragic story of separation, extreme suffering, but hope, to the very last day, the hope for survival. His notebook seems to tell us: "No, I will live, they're taking us somewhere but I'll surely see my beloved woman, my loving mum and my sweet daughter." The tragic though full of hope Christmas Eve also depicts that attitude. Other characters, including Jerzy (Andrzej Chyra), Andrzej's wife Anna (Maja Ostaszewska), General's wife (Danuta Stenka) constitute a brilliant insight into various, usually helpless, reactions towards evil, hypocrisy, injustice, cruelty and neutrality.

These stories are executed in an accurate and universal way. In such historic but tragic content, there is usually a tendency to become either too preachy or too emotional, which, to some extend, jerk the tears from viewers' eyes by force. Wajda does not do anything of these. He remains with the people, with humanity in general, does not give the final answer to anything. He seems to be with all of us and appears to depict a quest for truth, quest for justice and for humanity. Besides, he uses lots of very accurate symbols. The unforgettable and probably most thought provoking symbol is when Andrzej's wife looks for her husband and uncovers the bodies of soldiers. Among them, she occurs to uncover the figure of Christ taken from the Cross in church and laid among the deceased. Haven't we killed God by losing respect for life? Another brilliant symbol is when Russian soldiers tear the Polish flag into two parts, hanging the red part again as the Russian flag and using the white part as a foot dressing.

Except for the factors described above, KATYN is also a wonderful piece of work as a film. Very good cinematography, moody atmosphere, flawless performances. Artur Zmijewski does a brilliant job as Andrzej, Maja Ostaszewska is genuine as his wife and heroic, in a sense, Maja Komorowska is again a real artist in her job giving a real portrayal of the caring and then mourning mother. And Andrzej Chyra as Jerzy whose conscience and solidarity do not allow him to go on...magnificent!

But at the end I must tell you that it was not easy for me to write this review. The stories like this one do not lead to wordy comments, much noise, opinions, praise or criticism. They call for silence, the sacred silence that lets us honor those who died in such inhumane way. This silence shall constitute a significant message for today's generation, shall help us see deeper and give us faith to believe that their lives did not end in the soil. Therefore, though difficult, I consider KATYN one of the most important movies I have seen in my life.

Yes, dear young Patriot, hold Your Rosary high. The world will probably call your act "the act of despair". Yet, the world is befriended with lie and you are now victorious in a world of Glory and Eternal Light where there is no room for "lie". R.I.P.
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10/10
"The Soviet Red Army is your ONLY friend"
screenwriter-148 December 2007
KATYN is one of the most powerful World War II films I have ever seen and from the first frame of Poles fleeing from the Germans to the rear and the Russians in the front, an audience immediately feels the horror and claustrophobia of attempting to flee from the enemy, but with a sense of absolutely no where to run. The cast is simply superb, the story one of Polish Officers who meet their fate at the hands of the enemy, but with a sense of pride in themselves and their families, and the men and women who struggled to deal with both the Germans and the Russians and survive, is one written in the annals of history, but now with the truth of the slaughter finally brought to light. The final scenes in KATYN sent me from the theater with a sense of wanting to get a deep breath of air in my lungs, and to attempt to digest the horror I had just seen on the screen. KATYN deserves the Oscar and it is a film that will haunt you forever.
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3/10
The Katyn tragedy deserves a better cinematic treatment
Feanariel8 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
First of all, let me say that I am in no way denying the importance of the subject - quite the opposite. I am Polish and I have been aware of the Katyn massacre for quite a long time (in fact, two of my family members died there), so I was looking forward to this film. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

I think the main problem lies with the script, which encompasses too many subplots and characters, none of which are properly developed. The characters are painfully one-dimensional; their stories are intertwined, but lack overall meaning. In my opinion the cast doesn't really have a chance to show their ability. The exception is Andrzej Chyra, portraying Jerzy - the only interesting character. I wish the story was more focused on him.

As a result, the film lacks emotion. Before seeing it I thought I would be moved, if only for sentimental reasons - but in fact I was watching it with an odd sense of detachment throughout, except for the final execution scene. It is done well and its placing is interesting and provides a climactic ending, although the idea of the Lord's Prayer being recited in unison by the executed officers seems a bit far-fetched.

To conclude, I suppose the film may have some educational value for those who are not familiar with the portrayed historical events, but in my opinion it fails as a work of cinema.
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9/10
Powerful Story of a Monstrous Cover-Up
JSL2619 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The great Andrzej Wajda has produced definitive films about the French Revolution (Danton), the German destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto (Korczak), the Polish Resistance in WWII (Kanal), post-war anti-communist youth (Ashes and Diamonds), and the beginnings of the Solidarity Movement (Man of Iron). Now at the age of 81, he tackles one of the greatest tragedies in Polish history, the 1940 Katyn Forest Massacre, in which the Soviets killed about 25,000 Polish prisoners of war, many of them officers, on Stalin's orders. Wajda's accounting is non-linear with flashbacks and flash-forwards, and the portentous music leaves no doubt as to what will happen, but its impact is crushing and unforgettable nonetheless.

I once heard a speech by Lech Walesa in which he introduced himself as being from Poland--"a place where the Russians used to meet the Germans quite often." In this "meeting" in 1939, a week after the Hitler-Stalin pact was signed, the Germans and the Soviets both invaded and wreaked havoc on Poland. There is no need to recount the history of the Katyn Forest Massacre here; there is an excellent account in Wikipedia. The key point is that after the dissolution of the pact in 1941, the USSR was able to mount a disinformation campaign that for a long time managed to pin the blame for the massacre on the Germans.

Wajda deftly shows how that happened and how this cover-up persisted in Poland as the USSR took control of Poland after the war. Those who tried to tell the truth (including a young artist very similar to the young Wajda) were dealt with summarily.

What helped make the cover-up believable is that the Nazis were, of course, culpable for other horrible acts. This is depicted when Wajda first shows the Gestapo roughly rounding up and arresting an assembly of unsuspecting distinguished university professors. By comparison the Soviet Army at first seems more honorable as they detain a large group of Polish military officers, who had surrendered and were expecting the usual prisoner-of-war treatment accorded to officers. As one suspicious Polish officer worriedly notes, however, the Soviets had not ratified the Geneva Convention. Stalin and the NKVD evidently felt the need to liquidate the Polish officer corps (along with police officers, etc.) to smooth its eventual takeover of the country. Not till after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990 did Moscow admit to these murders.

A few years before that, in 1986, I took an Intourist tour of the Soviet Union. One of the stops was Minsk (now Belarus). We couldn't figure out why the tour sent us there until we were taken on a short bus trip to a war memorial in a nearby village that had been wiped out by the Nazis. It was a very well-done memorial with a dramatic sculpture of a survivor and an eternal flame for the many nearby towns that had been destroyed. (This particular genocidal technique--forcing townspeople into barns and then setting the barns on fire--was revealed in the equally great 1985 Russian film "Come and See" by Elem Klimov.) It was a very moving visit. But the impact was undercut to some degree by something I read in my guidebook: that this town, named "Khatyn," might have been chosen for this memorial because it had a name similar to the Katyn Forest, 160 miles away in Russia, where the Soviets themselves had been accused of doing the same kind of thing. I had long wondered about that, and now I understand.

Other reviewers mentioned some of the many powerful images in the film, but I'll close by mentioning one that nobody has singled out--the closing scene. A young lieutenant we have gotten to know has been executed while clutching a rosary, and his body, along with many others, has been thrown into a pit while a Soviet checks to make sure they are dead. At the same time a bulldozer begins to covering them with dirt. As the dirt covers the lieutenant's, his arm with the rosary in hand makes a last fleeting movement. The symbolism is unmistakable. One cover-up is complete, and the next one has begun.
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8/10
The history behind world history
stensson6 January 2009
Andrzej Wajda is a brave man. He made "The Man of Marble" and " The Man of Iron" a couple of years before the free trade unions started in Poland. Already in these pictures he attacked the communist system.

This is another variable of that theme. Here it is the Katyn massacre, there Polish officers were executed by the Soviets, who blamed all on the Nazis. And the Polish regime agreed upon it.

Wajda's method, in which he is better than almost anyone else, is showing the endless individual suffering behind the so called world history. Which makes this history more than statistics and analysis.

This is no exception.
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9/10
Excellent, brutal, touching -- the tragedy of a generation.
WarsawTC19 October 2007
Wajda, whose father was one of the tens of thousands of victims of this mega war crime, has created a powerful film that should be viewed both within Poland and abroad.

To understand modern Poland, it is necessary to understand what happened to much of the country's pre-WWII intellectual makeup. Wajda constructs a film that lets film audiences comprehend if not the scale of the crime, at least its devastating effects on victims and their families.

The film is well edited. It takes a complex story and tells it in the amount of time that audiences can both sit and take in the details as well as tolerate the brutality of the event itself.
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10/10
Ingeniously exposure of the darkest face of humanity.
BBorowy9 December 2007
This is not an average Oscar nominated Hollywood movie. There are few movies that are able to expose abyss of human nature, the darkest one in this case. It is not the most gruesome scenes, as one who knows the historical facts may expect to see, create emotional terror. Wajda masterfully leads the viewer deeply into reflections on how horrible humanity can become. There is little hope to change the course of the past, and yet when watching the film, one may catch himself hoping for a miracle of such a change. The journey through part of lives of those who were a part of this dark history is unforgettable.

As one can describe the included in Bethoveen's 9th "Ode to Joy" as the aspiration of humanity to reaching the best of itself, this movie shows what is the opposite alternative...
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9/10
"...And Ye Shall Know the TRUTH, and the TRUTH Shall Set Ye Free!"
KissEnglishPasto22 July 2016
.......................................................from Pasto,Colombia...Via: L.A. CA., CALI, Colombia & ORLANDO, FL

Katyn makes it painfully clear that the truth was a very scarce commodity throughout decades of Soviet domination. Considering Katyn was released nearly 20 years after the end of the Communist/Soviet era in Poland. It seems, to me at least, somewhat baffling that it took Polish film-makers so long to share these tragic and poignant true events with the world.

In historical retrospect, Nazi atrocities perpetrated against Poland and its people have been well circulated and repeated tirelessly over past decades. On the other hand, there has been a virtual dearth of information regarding Soviet atrocities. "WWII was triggered by the German blitzkrieg invasion of Poland in September, 1939." is what we Americans have been told ad nauseam for decades.

What is rarely ever mentioned is the simultaneous eastern invasion of Poland by Soviet forces! While Nazi aberrations such as Auschwitz and the Warsaw ghetto have been chronicled in numerous well-known films, this marks the first time, in my recollection at least, that Soviet war crimes have been dealt with openly and clearly in a movie. Katyn relates this true war time story through the interwoven lives of a dozen or so family members and friends. Within minutes of viewing, the story had me totally in its grip, and even though the eventual outcome is a historical fact we are all keenly aware of, the story unfolded in such a way as to never lose my interest.

9*.....ENJOY/DISFRUTELA!

Any comments, questions or observations, in English o en Español, are most welcome!
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8/10
Flawless, really. Slow, but so important and gorgeous it needs the time.
secondtake29 December 2010
Katyn (2007)

A striking, gorgeous, sad sad movie.

I'm not sure I like the idea that this is a deeply poetic movie about such genocidal horrors. But it is, beyond the usual. It's downright gorgeous, and lyrical, and timeless. It's quite an extraordinary visual experience, and it moves through beautiful forested and old world urban landscapes that are wonderful to just look at.

But that's not the point at all. Or at least, the mass murder by the Soviets of Polish officers in WWII is made more horrible by placing the crimes against such beauty. It amplifies how really wrong it is. That war, and the crimes of war, are inherently against nature. And good moral sense.

The pace is what you might call elegiac. That is, it is not quite slow, but it moves as a boat down a river might, with eloquence. I'm not sure that's enough, in the long run, to make it sublime (as sublime as it intends) but is really is close to a kind of cinematic poetry.

There are many great performances here, none of them splashy. There are beauties here (women and men both) but no star power, nothing distracting.

What matters most of all is a reminder, a realignment even, about historical facts, and the cruelty of the Soviets against the Poles, even as they were fighting the Nazis. Then of course Poland was under Soviet rule for decades, so a movie like this was only possible recently. And a movie this powerful, and this disturbing, and this beautiful, is remarkable. Watch it closely
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10/10
Beautiful and honest.
alex-michalik27 January 2008
I've seen this movie about two month ago. The information that it's one of the nominees for Oscars '08 was a huge gladness for me but not a surprise, just like for millions of people in Poland. I knew from the first place that somebody out there in Hollywood will notice the beauty of clearness and disarming honesty of Katyń. That's not the movie that you go to just in order to kill some time and relax. You have to be aware of the historical facts if you want to understand Katyń in the best way. Wajda did a great job, along with really good actors that really felt their roles. World needed the movie that tells the whole story about what happened in Katyn in 1940. Finally, it got it.
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7/10
Slightly Disappointing Film From A Polish Master
Theo Robertson21 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The Katyn massacre is a dark day of Polish history when as many as 20,000 Polish POWs , mainly army officers were murdered in the Russian forest of Katyn by the Soviet NKVD in the Spring of 1940 . After their invasion of the Soviet Union the Nazis found the mass graves and used them as an anti Bolshevik propaganda coup . Accusation and counter accusation between the Nazis and Soviets followed but there was little doubt amongst neutral observers like the International Red Cross and the Polish government in exile that it was the Soviet Union who were behind the atrocity . This film tells the often forgotten story behind the Katyn massacre

The story starts by pointing out the problem Poland had at the outbreak of the second world war . Surrounded by Germany on their Western Border and Russia on their Eastern border . Worse still Germany is ruled by racist demagogues who consider Poles " the wrong sort of Europeans " while Russia is a communist state who consider Poles to be " reactionary nationalistic Catholic fundamentalists " . In political terms the Poles have got a choice between fatal heart disease and terminal cancer and it's summed up by a conversation between two POWs:

" A thousand year Reich and communism lasts for ever "

" This alliance won't last a year . They'll need us "

" Who will ? "

The first half hour is compelling stuff . It's slightly similar to a holocaust movie but is more complex since the characters are clutching at straws hoping that one side - if not better than the other - is less worse . The main protagonist Anna has a relative taken away by the Nazis only for him return a few months later as a pile of ashes . This proves to her the Soviets will treat her captured husband less harshly . Unfortunately they don't

As the film progresses the intensity sadly lessens as more characters are introduced but distract from the plot proper . A young nationalistic Pole appears in what appears to be a cynical attempt to introduce a romantic subplot but he's killed off leaving the audience wondering why he was included in the first place . Anna is forced by the Nazi occupiers to condemn the murder of her husband and the other officers at Katyn and you'll sit there expecting this plot turn to come back to haunt her when the Soviets occupy her homeland but this thread disappears

All in all this is a slightly disappointing film from Andrzej Wajda who made the classic KANAL , a film I saw once twenty years ago and is seared in to my memory . KATYN is a good film though unfortunately doesn't maintain its early brilliance . It's probably summed up by Pawel Edelman's cinematography where primary colours are to the fore but the rest of the colours are muted and cold
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10/10
Katyn deserves an Oscar!!!!!
lund-2421 February 2008
Great movie! I hope that this movie will open the west's eyes on this massacre, though Franklin D. Roosevelt and W. Churchill knew about it (I recommend the book "A question of honor").

Mr. "Mythbreaker" is BTW clearly out of line in his comments which are purely political regarding this movie. At a recent visit of the Polish PM, Russia's President Mr. V. Putin admitted that the Katyn massacre was a Stalinist crime.

In addition the movie shows that Wajda's aim was not to disgrace the Russians (you will see that in the movie, don't want to spoil). I think the movie rather shows how cruel people can get.

The bad news: These kind of massacres still happen (see Rwanda, Sudan etc.)

Katyn deserves an Oscar!!!!!
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10/10
An Outstanding Master Work Of Mr. Wajda
denis88824 March 2008
The very fact that this new film has already been prohibited in my native country, Russia, says miles about the real value of this grand masterpiece of Mr. Andrzej Wajda. Katyn is a very serious, deep, highly emotional, grave and dark movie. The topic of mass massacres of Polish officers by Soviet NKVD forces is still very painful in both states. In Russia, the fact was officially acknowledged only several years ago, but times have changed and we see the total return to Soviet propaganda. Here, the film is blackened with libel of "Pre-paid anti-Russian propaganda" and "senile silly work of once great Wajda". Not so! I loved every second of this breathtaking saga of several families whose men were killed in cold blood in April 1940 in the woods of Katyn. Poland is shown torn apart by the Nazi and the Soviets. Both sides are cruel and merciless, people are murdered and sent to death camps. But still, even in the midst of this craziness, there are people, valiant and brave. Major Popov, played by great Russian actor Sergey Garmash, saves the family of one officer, and we can feel that he will pay by his own life too. Nobody is happy in this film. All heroes are either killed or arrested, or commit suicide or are broken. Heavy heart, tears, pain... This great film Must be shown in Russia...
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7/10
A Great historical drama
poland-estates23 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
*Small spoilers included.

For the first time in years, I left the cinema physically stunned. My heart raced and my eyes watered. This is a masterpiece.

The depiction of the 'Good Russian' was a very clever touch, and avoided making the film too one-sided or nationalistic.

And at last, this film explains to the world what Catholicism means to Poles: it is not just some medieval fanaticism, it is the only thing they had to keep them going through the lies and genocide of history.

As a British man of Polish descent I connected with the film in a personal way and understood all of the historical references with ease.

But I do fear that many of the references in the film will be lost on non-Polish audiences. Certainly, British and American knowledge of the history of Eastern Europe is generally bad. Wajda knows this. Just a couple of lines of dialogue could have been used from time to time to explain the Russo-Polish war of 1921, or the Polish partisan activity 1945-1949, or how and why some Poles joined the Soviet forces in 1943. Wajda drops these facts in as if the audience is only Polish and will understand immediately. I wish Wajda could have tailored it slightly more to the international audience, as this is an important film for the Polish nation and Polish emigrant communities to communicate with the rest of the world.

Hollywood frequently discusses the Jewish Holocaust. Again, Wajda knows this, and he could have taken the opportunity to at least touch on the subject to set the record straight. Polish Catholic prejudice against Judaism exists, just as prejudice exists in every country in the world. But there were many more Polish Jews saved by Polish Catholics than were harmed by them. There were Jews in the Polish army who felt Polish first, Jewish second, and strictly anti-Soviet. In this film, showing a Polish Jew as one of the victims of Katyn would have shown that Polish Jews and Catholics were more often than not united against the Soviets and Nazis.

But the main point, just as with the 'Good Russian', is that it doesn't matter about your identity. There are good and bad people in the world, opportunistic or moral, liars or honest, cowards or heroes. And they can be any race, colour or creed. Eventually, the opportunists, liars and cowards lose the fight. For me, that is the message of Katyn.
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6/10
Silent tragedy
miklikowska-14 February 2008
A well done picture speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves and would be gladly considered never existing by some.

Although it's difficult to credibly and adequately convey the horror of such a murder which became a life tragedy for many Polish families and undoubtedly affected the way Poland looked after the war I think the director made a good job. Especially so, that it happened to be his personal tragedy as well.

Despite that the movie is well-balanced with emotions and atmosphere. Modest colors and anxious music by Penderecki emphasize the horror of those who were waiting. Short cuts of brutal scenes of murder leave speechless. No additional comment is needed.
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Deserves to be seen by a much wider audience
rogerdarlington22 June 2009
Everyone in Poland has heard of the Katyn massacre but I've been surprised and saddened at how few people in Britain know of the atrocity. In the early part of the Second World War, more than 4,000 Polish soldiers were executed in the Katyn forest near Smolensk in western Russia. This was part of an organised effort to eradicate the military, political and intellectual leadership of Poland and a series of executions in various other locations removed some 22,000 Poles from their loved ones and their nation.

So, who did this? The Germans claimed to have uncovered the bodies in 1943 and blamed the Soviets in an effort to embarrass and divide the Allies. The Soviet Union categorically denied the crime at the time and for decades afterwards, only in 1990 admitting what the Poles and any independent assessor of the evidence knew: Stalin's NKVD perpetrated the horror on his express command.

The incident has now been made into a major Polish film by the acclaimed Polish director Andrzej Wajda whose own father was killed at Katyn and who is now in his 80s. The work was premiered at the Berlin film festival in 2007; it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2008; and it finally arrived in Britain in a few cinemas in the summer of 2009. It is an exceptional work - both powerful and moving - that deserves a much larger audience.

Starting in 1939 with the simultaneous invasion of Poland by the Nazis and the Soviets, it takes us in several jumps to the immediate post-war period and underlines that the shame of Katyn was not just the deaths of the 22,000 in 1940 but the denial of the truth by so many people for so many years afterwards. Through the device of a prolonged flashback, the film concludes with a return to Katyn with close-up scenes of the sheer brutality of what was unquestionably a war crime.

The film is based on a novel by Andrzej Mularczyk and revolves around a number of fictional families with a fair bit of location work in Krakow, a city centre that looks today much like it did in the 1940s and which I have visited. The photography and acting are both excellent and selective use of wartime film footage simply adds to the sense of verisimilitude.

Footnote: To my utter astonishment, at the Renoir cinema in central London where I saw the film, as I descended the stairs to the screen, I was given a leaflet by a representation of something called The Stalin Society which insisted that the massacre was carried out by the Germans in 1943 and that Wajda's film is simply part of a sustained attempt to discredit communism at a time of economic crisis when so many people would see it as the obvious alternative to capitalism.
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3/10
Perhaps good for a TV mini-series, but not for the big screen
Angolmoise19 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Oh what a disappointment this movie is. I can't believe it was directed by Wajda. There's practically no plot and 90% of the movie consists of various people walking in and out of the screen, weakly trying to interact with each other while talking about the Katyn massacre. The most interesting part comes right at the end, but by that time I simply stopped caring while trying to suppress my yawns.

Almost the entire movie is filmed with a hand-held camera, which is supposed to convey the feeling of "personal immediacy" but there's nothing personal or immediate about most of the movie. Instead, the constant jerking of the camera made me seasick. To be fair, there are some great shots too (no pun intended), but nothing that makes you go "Wow!".

If you're not familiar with the Katyn massacre, the movie will leave you scratching your head. If you are familiar, you'll be scratching your head too, although maybe for different reasons. Basically, the movie states and restates over and over again that it was the Soviets who murdered thousands of Polish soldiers in 1940. This point is hammered repeatedly as though someone in the audience needed to be convinced of this basic historical fact. However, the movie never tries to explain as to WHY they were killed. After all, tens of thousands of Polish soldiers in the other Soviet POW camps were not harmed and were released in 1941. It is also never explained adequately HOW MANY people perished, although the figure 20,000 is thrown in a couple of times.

The acting is adequate with only Komorowska (old woman) and Chyra (Lt. Jerzy) giving noticeable performances, but they get to act for maybe 10-15 minutes in total. Certainly not enough to carry the whole movie. Many other actors seem to have been chosen more for their matinée looks rather than their acting abilities, but I won't mention their names. Suffice to say that they are definitely NOT the Oscar material, so any claims that this movie was "robbed" of the Academy Award are simply laughable.

The tone of movie is wrong as well. On one hand it tries to be an accurate historical drama, on the other it resorts to cheap anti-Soviet propaganda such as showing a Russian soldier tear up the Polish flag and using it to clean his boots. Then there are some puzzling scenes which have absolutely no bearing on the plot, such as a couple climbing on a roof or the liquidation of the Krakow University.

There are many missed opportunities to make this movie more interesting, such as adding a political angle to the story, or showing the German discovery of the graves, or even portraying Anna's trip from the Soviet occupied part to the German occupied Krakow. All of these aspects could have been the major part of the movie, but instead they're reduced to a couple of minutes. In the end, we get a collection of loosely fitting, confusing, boring scenes about the reaction of Poles to one of their greatest tragedies of WWII. Not very compelling and not worthy of Wajda at all.
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7/10
Well made, but also a bit staid
Andy-2969 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Veteran Polish director Andrzej Wajda take on the Katyn Massacre, the 1940 execution in a few days (probably a world record in mass murder) of some 20,000 Polish officers captured during the previous year invasion of Eastern Poland by the Soviet Union (in complicity with Nazi Germany who had invaded the western part of Poland).

As the movie begins, the Polish officers are being transported in trains to the Soviet Union as prisoners. Meanwhile the Germans are also doing mischief in their controlled part of Poland, detaining the professors of Krakow University and sending them to concentration camps. After a brief interlude in World War II, the movie moves on to the post war. In new communist Poland, when one of the widows of the slain officers tries to inquire to authorities about his fate, she is told is better to kept quiet. The movie ends with a recreation of some of the executions.

Aimed primarily at a Polish audience, this is a well made film, with good production values, but also curiously (for lack of a better word and given the subject matter) bloodless (the most moving part of the film is a real Nazi newsreel that shows the mass graves being exhumed by the Germans for propaganda purposes). I think it could have benefited by being less restrained and more polemical. Still, a worthy and interesting film.
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7/10
Breathtaking film based on facts that are well played by a sensational plethora of Polish actors
ma-cortes14 October 2009
This excellent movie is a vivid portrayal about war. War has rarely been rendered in such an horrid, utterly grim manner, especially in its final part. Harrowing, unnerving epic which depicts the horror of war as a woman named Anna (Maja) roams the Russian detachments to find his prisoner husband (Arthur Zmijewski) during invasion and other stories. As Anna , her daughter and mother-in-law live in hopes which the father has survived . As a general's (Jan Eglert) wife keeps silence when a Russian officer obligate her to accuse the Germans of her husband's death. Furthermore the Anna's nephew whose father was killed at Katynn is pursued by Russian military for defacing an advertisement cartel . The story contains some overwhelming sequences as the massacre across the Katyn wood and including some actual documentary. It packs a sensible and spectacular musical score by the classic musician Krzystof Penderecki. Evocative and colorful cinematography by Pawel Edelman, usual of Roman Polanki and Wadja. The motion picture has splendidly been directed by the veteran Andrzej Wadja, the best Polish director who made classics as ¨Pan Tadeusz, Danton, The promised land, Kanal¨ among others.

The historic events in which this movie are based result to be the following : Hitler wanted to avoid facing a possible alliance of the Soviet Union , Britain and France. The Western democracies were equally aware of the Soviets' potential to deter German expansion but their negotiations with Stalin did not lead to any agreement. At the same time, however, Hitler had set aside his ideological differences with Stalin in the hopes of making an alliance. In August 1939 he offered Stalin a deal : If the Soviets allowed Germany to attack Western Poland , they would receive eastern Poland and Baltic states. The Munich capitulation of France and Britain to Hitler's demands convinced that they would be unreliable allies . He decided that he had to cope with German expansion eastward on his own, without their help. In late August 1939, German foreign Secretary Joachin Von Ribentropp visited Moscow to sign with Molotov a German-Soviet Nonagression Pact , which included the deal over territory. The agreement between two nations at opposite political extremes, fascism on one side , communism on the other, shocked the world. It also left Hitler with a free hand in Poland. Hitler used an apparent Polish raid on a Radio Station in the German border town of Gleiwitz as an excuse to invade Poland the following day , September 1, 1939. Two days later, on September 3, France and Britain declared war on Germany, WWII had begun. Beaten back by the Germans, Polish forces were now attacked from the east. The Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin ordered his Red Army to cross into eastern Poland. He claimed that he wanted to prevent anarchy caused by the collapse of Polish government. Thousands of Soviet troops poured across the border and raced west to link up with German troops. Organized Polish resistance to the invaders collapsed. In the last week of September Polish troops in Modlin and Warsaw surrounded to the Germans, A small garrison of 4.500 men held out on the Hel Peninsula near Danzing until October 2. Some 694.000 Polish were seized by the victorious Germans and more than 217.000 Poles were rounded up by the Red Army. Both the Germans and Soviets treated the Poles with great brutality. Stalin ordered most of his prisoners deported to the Gulag (a system brutal labor camps) and later taking more than 20.000 officer prisoners were executed in secret.
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6/10
Disappointingly unengaging
malcp25 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
It seems almost sacrilegious to be critical of a film that is based on genocide, but just because a film portrays an appalling historical episode does not mean it should automatically be lauded or acclaimed as this film appears to have been from it's cover notes. The film loosely follows several Polish officers caught up in the events, sometimes from their perspective and sometimes from the perspective of their families. Initially, the coverage of the genocide itself is from the perspective of relatives and thus arrives second or even third hand. The problem I felt was that the storyline flits between to many characters. We see some important episodes in their lives but very few of them are given any real depth. Two scenes involving the soldiers also jarred. An enormous prison barrack has bunk beds about ten berths high and is packed with thousands of soldiers and the temperature is well-below freezing. A visually iconic image. However it's also emotionless, the actors may as well be at a football match or just about to leave work. The second scene later showed the officers on a train. The narrative described them as twelve people crammed into spaces big enough for seven. Well to me they looked as though they were far more comfortable than if they had been travelling on the London underground at rush hour. It's a difficult subject and Wajda (whose own father was killed in the events) should have been the perfect director, but the massacre of 22,000 people deserves a more remarkable film depiction than is managed here.
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9/10
Katyn deserves a worldwide audience
id24713 December 2008
I'm an Englishman living in Poland, since 2002 until this review in 2008.

I've had six years in this very friendly country, and I have heard many accounts of what happened at Katyn from those families who lost their grandfathers/fathers.

This film deserves to be seen. The last 15 minutes are truly shocking, but the true Polish spirit is indomintable - they never give in - through Katyn - through Auschwitz - through hundreds years of wars - the Polish spirit and strength has survived, and will always survive.

Andrej Wajda is Poland's most famous film director, his father was murdered in Katyn, after many acclaimed films he won an "honary" Oscar for his contribution to world cinema.

On receiving his Oscar he said:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I will speak in Polish because I want to say what I think and feel and I always thought and felt in Polish.

I accept this great honor not as a personal tribute, but as a tribute to all of Polish cinema.

The subject of many of our films was the war, the atrocities of Nazism and the tragedies brought by communism.

This is why today I thank the American friends of Poland and my compatriots for helping my country rejoin the family of democratic nations, rejoin the Western civilizations, its institutions and security structures.

My fervent hope is that the only flames people will encounter will be the great passions of the heart-love, gratitude and solidarity.
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8/10
You have to see it.
Bestian25 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
One thing is for sure, this is not a typical happy-ending story. Spoiler alert! They are all going to die at the end. And the movie is really about the people that they have left fulfilling their line of duty. It’s not a great movie. I know that it will not win a lot of prizes and silly golden statues. But I can tell you that it will be nominated a lot. Why? That’s simple! To raise awareness! You don’t kill over 20000 officers, scientist, engineers, PEOPLE, and simply get away whit it. Blaming the other fraction when you know and everybody knows what really happened. That’s not the best movie made in Poland this year, but today we all already know that’s the only movie that’s going to represent Poland on the international scene. And that’s why you need to see it. Not because it’s a great movie, but because you want your children to see a movie about 9:11. And that’s 9:11 times 10. Whit a special add-on of 50 years of forced silence under penalty of death.
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8/10
more a testimony than an art film
dromasca16 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
The opening and the ending scenes in this film will be hard to forget for anybody who sees them. The opening happens on a bridge someplace in Poland in September 1939. Refugees run on the bridge from both sizes - on one side running of the Nazis, on the other side from the Soviets. They have no place to run, no place to hide. A strong metaphor for a nation abandoned by history.

Then comes the movie, a movie that Wajda wanted to make for decades about the massacre of thousands of Polish officers taken prisoners by the Russians in the first month of WWII - one of the most controversial moments and abject crimes in a war that was full of abject crimes. While the message is strong and crisp, the feeling one gets is that an even better film was missed. While the stories of the families trying to find the truth about the prisoners, then fighting for the truth not to be buried or used as propaganda by the two dictatorships that occupied Poland are in the center of the film, the description is too direct. It looks like Wajda who is certainly a great director wanted on purpose to make a very straight indictment in this film. He was more interested in the testimony than in art.

The final scene brings to screen the massacre itself. Although quite graphical in nature, it is moving and unforgettable. Then, for many moments the screen turns to black before credits run. The screen may have become dark, but the memory lives and will live forever for those who saw this movie.
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