(Czech Republic/Ukraine/Slovakia - 2020)
Written and directed by Vaclav Marhoul. Cast: Petr Kotlar, Udo Kier, Stellan Skarsgard, Harvey Keitel, Julian Sands, Julia Valentova Vidrnakova, Aleksey Kravchenko, Barry Pepper, Petr Vanek, Nina Shunevych, Alla Sokolova, Michaela Dolezalova, Zdenek Pecha, Lech Dyblik, Jitka Cvankarova, Milan Simacek, Petr Klimes, Andrej Polak, Filip Kankovsky. (Unrated, 170 mins)
Based on the 1965 novel by Being There author Jerzy Kosinski, THE PAINTED BIRD is an unrelentingly grim, grueling, three-hour journey into the abyss, seen through the eyes of a young, nameless Jewish orphan (Petr Kotlar) left on his own in the rural hellscape of Eastern Europe during WWII. You know Czech writer/director Vaclav Marhoul isn't pulling any punches when it's barely three minutes in and the boy is attacked and beaten by other children, who then set his ferret on fire and watch it burn. His parents presumably perished in a concentration camp, he's been sent to live with his elderly Aunt Marta (Nina Shunevych), though he's left on his own once again when she dies and he's so startled by the discovery of her body that he drops a lantern, igniting a fire that quickly engulfs their small house. He makes his way to a gypsy camp where he's beaten by villagers who blame him for "bewitching the cows" and "summoning evil," and he's bought by a superstitious old crone (Alla Sokolova), who thinks he's a vampire. He escapes on a small raft and is found by the hired hand (Zdenek Pecha) of a bad-tempered miller (Udo Kier), who regularly beats his wife (Michaela Dolezalova) for making eye contact with the male help. The boy is off again after the miller, in a drunken rage, attacks the hired hand and gouges his eyes out with a spoon.
LA PELLE/THE SKIN, and Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900, with one shot of the boy lying on the tracks as a train speeds over him coming straight from that 1977 pro-communism epic.
|Director Vaclav Marhoul and star Petr Kotlar
on the set of THE PAINTED BIRD