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Posts Tagged ‘“The Painted Bird”’

Petr Kotlar as The Boy

“THE PAINTED BIRD”  My rating: B (Streaming July 17 on most digital and cable platforms)

170 minutes | MPAA rating:

As horrifying as “The Painted Bird” is, I don’t regret the three hours spent watching it.

Like a few other films — I’m thinking particularly of the Soviet “Come and See” — Polish filmmaker Vaclav Marhoul’s adaptation of Jerzy Kosiriski’s 1965 novel tests a viewer’s capacity to absorb the terrors of war (in this case World War II on the Eastern Front).

Not that there’s much in the way of battlefield mayhem. The violence here is directed at civilians and, even worse, at one young boy. War or no war, this movie seems to be saying, superstitious, thick-headed humans will go out of their way to torment each other.

The protagonist of the yarn is The Boy (Petr Kotlar), who is presumably Jewish. Separated from his family, he leads a nomadic existence, wandering through fields and forests, barely surviving  thanks to the “kindness” of strangers, who as often as not abuse him physically, sexually and emotionally.

Harvey Keitel

When we first meet him he’s being chased through the woods by three boys who beat him and set fire to his pet ferret. Sort of sets the tone for the whole enterprise.

The boy is living with an old woman he calls “Auntie” (whether they’re actually related is doubtful). Upon her death he stumbles into a village where an old matriarch declares him a “vampire” and orders him  killed. He survives this threat — and all of the others that will test him — less by his wits than by pure luck.

At one point The Boy flees his pursuers by jumping into a river and being carried downstream on a fallen tree branch, only to be delivered into yet another hellish predicament.  This becomes a metaphor for his life; drifting helplessly from one crisis to the next.

All of this is unfolds with a minimum of dialogue and little or no psychological insight into the characters.  That goes as well for The Boy himself, who has been so numbed by his experiences that only acute physical pain can rouse him from his emotional lethargy. (more…)

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