Epic and Heartbreaking - Mick Jordan

10 Points

Viewer Rating:Mick Jordan has rated Katyn rating: 4 Star

From start to finish Katyn is a film of devastation and outrage. Even the opening scene brings the blood to full boiling point. Refugees fleeing the German invasion from the West run headlong into refugees fleeing the Russian invasion from the East. Eventually they are sandwiched between these two armies, Soviets and Nazis who laugh and greet each other as friendly rivals while the prisoners look on wondering just who their captors are. The Polish army is split into infantry men and officers and it is the Soviet army who march off the latter – to the forests of Katyn. These men are the intellectuals and professionals of Polish society, the doctors the lawyers and the teachers, the men that would be needed to build Poland's future – if anyone was going to let it have one. Andrzej Wajda is a legendary Polish film-maker who grew up and was trained in his craft under the Communist regime of the Warsaw Pact. The same communist regime who for decades suppressed the truth about what happened in Katyn forest – the slaughter and mass burial of 20,000 Polish officers, including Wajda's own father. Finally at the age of 83 he has the chance to tell the story he has always wanted to tell and he pulls out all the stops in doing so. This is a grand sweeping epic to rival the likes of 'Dr. Zhivago' yet still manages to concentrate on the intimate details of the destroyed lives left behind. It is a very angry film that still manages to be restrained. The actual massacre itself is shown as a calm methodical process performed by stoic, emotionless Soviet soldiers slaughtering animals in an abattoir. The only thing to ruffle the smoothness of the operation is the struggle and panic of each victim as one by one they realise at the last minute what's being done to them. The murders themselves are only part of the story however. There is also its legacy. With Poland in ruins at the end of the war and no-one left to re-build it the communists took over and formed the Warsaw pact. The Katyn massacre was clearly a NAZI war-crime and it was a crime to say otherwise. To make matters worse it was a lie that was rolled out again and again as propaganda - how much better off the people of Poland were under the regime that had defeated the Nazis, who had killed their innocent sons and husbands. Everyone knew the truth but everyone had to tell the lie and many were destroyed by it. All of this is conveyed so well in a film that will make you angry and frustrated at the monumental injustice of it all. It is also a film that will stay with you long after you've left the cinema.

Review published on the 10 July 2009 16:45


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