Monday, 29 June 2009

Katyn


I’m on a roll, having seen my third excellent film in a row in a year which had previously not been very inspiring (and I’ve said enough about the summer blockbusters).

Katyn tells the true story of the massacre of Polish military officers during WWII. The story is told in original ways and from various viewpoints but is nonetheless what I would call a great old-fashioned epic with brilliant acting and amazing cinematography. The director is Andrzej Wajda, whose father died in the massacre, which makes it all the more amazing that this powerful drama is not at all sentimental. Wajda is one of the most influential filmmakers in Poland and yet I have never seen anything he made. Obviously that was a mistake. At the age of 83, he is still capable of making what may be my favourite film of the year thus far. Note: While not having seen Wajda’s films, I have seen the results of some of his influence, having seen all of Kieslowski’s films (Kieslowski is one of my favourite European directors).

At its heart, Katyn is about truth-telling, about exposing one piece of the true history of a nation which suffered so much in the last century and whose people were constantly forced to bury the truth, or to re-remember the truth in an Orwellian sense. For me, such truth-telling is, like humanization, one of the most important roles film can play in our time. When it is done with the almost flawless craft of Katyn, we have filmmaking at its finest. And when the nation involved is one which is part of my ancestral history both in terms of location and blood (ancestors named Sawatzky), it is particularly meaningful. **** My mug is held up high.

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