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KATYN

Director: ANDRZEJ WAJDA

POLAND • 2007 SUBTITLED • COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • DOLBY STEREO • DIGITAL • 121 MIN


ANDRZEJ WAJDA, POLAND’S GREATEST FILMMAKER, WAITED A LIFETIME TO MAKE THIS FILM ABOUT A WWII ATROCITY WHICH HAS LONG HAUNTED HIS NATION AND THE RESULT IS A SEARING INDICTMENT OF THE HORRORS OF WAR — AND A PAINFUL ACCOUNTING OF THE YEARS OF LIES WHICH FOLLOWED.
History, it has to be said, handed the Poles a shocking deal. In 1939 when the Germans invaded from the West, the retreating Polish army was then captured en masse by the Russians, who’d just marched in from the East. They allowed the infantrymen to return to the Nazi-occupied area, but some 15,000 officers — men who were accountants, engineers, white collar workers before the call-up — were never seen again. Wajda’s own father was among that lost generation.
Since the loss affected so many families, the story isn’t based around a single household, but moves between the experiences of mothers, sisters, wives, all somehow trying to continue their lives in the shadow of uncertainty, hanging on to whatever hope they could muster. Gradually though, the design becomes clearer as each character plays their part in the emergence of a terrible truth the Soviets tried to hide by blaming it on the Nazis — a truth which then became unsayable in the communist years of reconstruction post-1945. It’s a film powered by quiet anger, yet somehow it’s more impressive for resisting outright sentimentality, not least in its final moments’ awesomely restrained, unforgettable portrayal of what really did take place in Katyn forest. — Trevor Johnston.

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