Monday, March 23, 2009


A movie that begins with a scene of gray clouds floating across the screen is a fairly straightforward foreshadowing that this is not going to be a happy movie.
What movie is this, you may or may not ask? It is Andrzej Wajda's 2007 import "Katyn."
Taking place in one of Poland's worst five year spans (1940-45), it is the story of a woman named Anna (Wiktoria Gasiewska)who watches her husband Andrzej (Artur Zmijewski) go off to fight Soviets on the country's eastern front. She and their daughter Nikka must escape to Krakow, one of the only major cities in all of Europe not destroyed by the Axis, but they must dodge Nazi fire as well as Soviet fire along the way. This one story becomes several as Andrzej and his army is defeated and captured by the Reds and sent to a POW camp where he is selected as one of over 22,000 lucky winners who are later transported to the Katyn forest to be shot in the back of the head. This happens, chronologically, early on and it takes a long time before his family finds out. Anna and Nika escape with the skin on their teeth from the Soviet forces several times in the film, because they are the family of a top army officer. Andrzej's father is also executed, along with his colleagues, because he is a professor at a university. As the movie progresses, an additional mother and daughter are thrown into the plot, who also suffer the loss of their military father. Another woman and child are executed. With every scene, the madness of the communists increases. The most central example of which is the reason that gives this story historical significance. Upon invasion in 1940, the Soviets committed the murder of those 22,000 people and then attempted to brain wash the nation to believe that it was the Nazis all along. After all, a scape goat is always appreciated when you're trying to control a rebellious nation in an "orderly" fashion. It seems that no one in the film believes them for the obvious reason that they just experienced it several years ago. This does not stop the Soviets from attempting to kill everyone, including a young man who is applying for college (who lost his father in the tragedy), a woman that quotes Antigone (because they do not allow her to bury her brother because his tombstone reads that he too died in Katyn), and numerous others.
The film ends on a very dark note, the actual murder of the Polish army in Katyn. How it is done shows the general mood of the movie. They all have their arms tied behind their backs and shot in one spot in the back of the head, in between each murder the blood is washed or swiped aside and the body falls in the trench. Each soldier killed on screen says part of a prayer, together saying one completely, except for the big word: Amen. This, and a cross that a corpse is holding on to but loosens his grip on after a few moments sends one message: God left this place (just as the atheist Soviets begin their reign). The whole film is about murder and suppression of the truth and intelligence. Andrzej's journal only makes it back to Anna by chance, but was meant to be kept away because it contains threatening information as far as the Russians are concerned. All the people that are killed hold some piece of the puzzle. The officials in power are always the common stupid folk that have been granted power by the reds and therefore would not speak against them. Even Jerzy, one of Andrzej's army buddy's commits suicide when he realizes society has ostracized him for attempting to set the record straight. All this lying, deception, and taking of life is done in a very clean cut, bureaucratic sort of way. These are the regulations and all who obey not only live, but they do it becuase it is their job.

1 comment:

  1. You don't say how you saw this film. I saw the coming attractions for it at FIlm Forum a month ago or so. Is it on DVD? The story of Katyn is such a tragedy. The Soviets murdered the entire Polish officer corps and then, when the bodies were unearthed by the Nazis the two countries blamed each other for it. In the US it was convenient to pin it on the NAzis, but the truth was recognized after the hot war ended adn the Cold War began. I'd like to see this one.