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Foreign Films > Katyn (Andrzej Wajda)

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message 1: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Wadja avoids the cliches though veers periously close a few times and delivers a touching and humane story about the Katyn massacre. He blends realism with fiction for a film that is much better than the foreign Oscar winner THE COUNTERFEITERS.

KATYN (Andrzej Wajda, 2007, Poland) Faded graphite scribbles upon the bloodstained pages of a soldier’s diary forever reminds the world that the guilty need to be held accountable, or humanity’s moral ledger will sum less than zero. Director Andrzej Wajda’s alchemical mixture of fiction and horrific fact has transformed the Katyn massacre into an immortal metaphor, a story that transcends its time and whose sad wisdom is accessible to every culture, country, or individual. Over 22,000 Polish POWs were murdered in the cold Katyn forest and death camps during the Soviet invasion in 1940, while survivors were enlisted into the People’s Army of Poland, crushed under the Iron Curtin of repression. Wajda’s magic is to take a statistic and give it a human identity allowing us to comprehend the emotional toll that otherwise would overwhelm our senses. He focuses the narrative upon families awaiting the news of their detained loved ones, a wife or sister who listens anxiously to daily broadcasts of the deceased, eaten alive by fear but never quite emptied of hope. From the opening sequence where panicked civilians are trapped on a bridge between two destinies; Wajda shows us the dichotomies of the spirit, of duty, of the power and will to survive…or die. Andrzej is a young soldier who keeps a diary of his incarceration, detailing the daily boredom and torment: a man who had the chance for escape but whose moral obligation to his country outweighed his concept of self. As we follow his wife and daughter throughout the film, we fear his death as news of the massacre becomes public, these honorable victims reduced to nothing more than Nazi propaganda. Wajda intersperses the film with black & white documentary newsreels; vile unforgettable images that no special effects could ever duplicate. This intuitively awakens us to the reality of the film, though we are watching an amalgam of fiction and fact. The schism is revealed further in the relationship between Andrzej and his friend Jerzy, a soldier who becomes subsumed by the Communist regime, the awful knowledge smothering his spirit, entombed with his friends in the Katyn Forest: with a single gunshot, he finds salvation. Finally the diary is unearthed and its blank pages flutter like dead leaves, the last entry dating to 1940: the Soviet invasion. Joseph Stalin said, “One death is a tragedy, one million is a statistic”: he must have been a great statistician. (B+)


message 2: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10539 comments wow, i don't know this one, and am glad to know of another wadja film. i am most familiar with his war trilogy, which is brilliant (kanal, ashes and diamonds....can't remember the title of the other one in the set...). i'll look for this one, alex...thanks again.


message 3: by Anna (new)

Anna (lilfox) | 465 comments The name of the director is WAJDA, not Wadja.


message 4: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10539 comments thanks anna!


message 5: by Anna (new)

Anna (lilfox) | 465 comments I wrote that cause on World Cinema group you also wrote Wajda's name wrong way.


message 6: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10539 comments thanks again for your discerning eye. i've seen his name many times in print. goodness gracious, i must be developing some form of selective dyslexia.....


message 7: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10539 comments thanks again for your discerning eye. i've seen his name many times in print. goodness gracious, i must be developing some form of selective dyslexia.....i promise never to do it again, regardless of the discussion group.

perhaps we could steer this back to cinema. what do you think of wajda?


message 8: by Anna (new)

Anna (lilfox) | 465 comments Most of his movies is really great - I haven't seen all of them. But some of his movies (Man of Marble or Man of Iron) can be hard to understand for people, who don't remember communism era in Poland (like me - three days after my 5th birthday Berlin wall had collapsed) or don't have any connections to the that-time opposition members in close family.


message 9: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10539 comments thanks, i don't know either of the films you've mentioned. i've read a lot about the days in eastern europe during the cold war, and am always interested in learning more about....well, just about anything having to do with history really. i travelled a little in eastern germany once when i was on tour, that was before the wall had come down. it wasn't so different from the time that i spent living in russia, in that, my experience of the place was a lot different than all the crap the united states manufactured about "behind the iron curtain" was total bullshit.

anyway, sorry to veer from cinema, but thanks again for a few of wajda's titles that i don't know. i love the few films of his that i've seen, so i'm excited to see more.


message 10: by Anna (new)

Anna (lilfox) | 465 comments Man of Iron got Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival in 1981.

I think that people just used the circumstances they were living in to make a life in communism somehow bareable. It looks different when you hear a story from a person who was living in East Germany, Poland, Hungary or any ex-satellite country of USSR and than compare it with stuff told by average American, even if that's a journalist.


message 11: by Bibliomantic (new)

Bibliomantic Just saw Katyn, and thought it was very good. I liked how the film avoided simply going through the motions of the story of the last days of those captured, but instead showed us the early stages then pulled us out to explore the lives of the families and others. Afterall, we all know how it ends, and it would have been a pity to simply do a cinematic recap of what happened in a linear fashion. By the time we are brought back to the forest, we have more context in which to place the whole event and the tragedy of it all grows beyond simply the number of those killed.


message 12: by Anna (new)

Anna (lilfox) | 465 comments I think Wajda said somewhere that this movie is more about families (mostly mothers,wives, daughters, sisters) of the soldiers killed in Katyń than about soldiers themselves. Wajda's father was killed in Katyń.


message 13: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Thanks Anna, I did not know that about Wajda. That would explain why his depiction of the anxiety from the family's viewpoint was the film's frisson.


message 14: by Anna (new)

Anna (lilfox) | 465 comments Especially women, cause in Katyń you see most of men as soldiers. Women had to keep the memories and deal with ordinary life.


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