Katyn (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner17/06/2009

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 118 mins

Superbly directed and powerfully emotional, this is a harrowing wartime drama that demands to be seen.

What's it all about?
Directed by 83-year-old master filmmaker Andrzej Wajda, Katyn examines the mystery of the Katyn massacre, in which the Soviets murdered some 12,000 Polish officers in the Katyn forest in the early 1940s and falsely blamed the crime on the Nazis.

The film focuses primarily on three women: Anna (Maja Ostaszewska), whose husband Andrzej is arrested with his friend Jerzy (Andrzej Chyra) after they refuse to abandon their posts in the Polish army when the Soviets invade; a general's wife (Danuta Stenka) who learns of her husband's death after the Germans discover mass graves in Katyn and who's subsequently pushed to use her story as propaganda; and Agnieszka (Magdalena Cielecka), the sister of a pilot killed at Katyn, who attempts to give her brother a commemorative burial, against the wishes of the authorities.

The Good
Incredibly, it was only after the fall of the USSR, some fifty years later, that the Soviets finally acknowledged their part in the Katyn massacre. With that in mind, it's possible to feel the weight of national outrage behind Wajda's direction, unsurprisingly, given his own family connection to the tragedy.

Initially, it feels as if there are too many characters and it's hard to keep track of the shifting time-frame. However, once it becomes clear what Wajda is trying to do (i.e. covering every aspect of the story, from the propaganda to the shocking extent of the cover-up) the film snaps into focus and becomes profoundly moving.

The Great
The film is also beautifully shot, with impressive production design and striking cinematography courtesy of Pawel Edelman. Ostaszewska is excellent as Anna and there's strong support from Stenka and Cielecka. In addition, Wajda orchestrates several powerful scenes that will stay with you long after you leave the cinema; when the massacre itself finally arrives, it's nothing less than devastating.

Worth seeing?
Katyn is a disturbing, powerful drama that demands to be seen and should be required viewing for history classes everywhere. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Katyn (15)
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Content updated: 20/10/2017 11:44

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