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Directed By
Andrzej Wajda

Written By:
Andrzej Wajda, Andrzej Mularczyk, Przemyslaw Nowakowski, Wladyslaw Pasikowski

Wladyslaw Kowalski, Krystyna Zachwatowicz, Sergey Garmash, Tomasz Leszczynski, Olgierd Lukaszewicz, Joachim Paul Assböck, Maja Ostaszewska, Andrzej Chyra, Agnieszka Glinska, Pawel Malaszynski, Maja Komorowska, Oleg Savkin, Antoni Pawlicki, Agnieszka Kawiorska, Joachim Paul Assböck, Waldemar Barwinski, Sebastian Bezzel, Jacek Braciak, Leon Charewicz, Waldemar Czyszak, Alicja Dabrowska, Aleksander Fabisiak, Krzysztof Globisz, Krzysztof Kolberger, Zbigniew Kozlowski, Rafal Kronenberger, Roman Leus, Janusz Lagodzinski, Maria Maj, Józef Mika, Andrzej Pieczynski, Leszek Piskorz, Waldemar Pokromski, Jakub Przebindowski, Anna Radwan, Jacek Romanowski, Rafal Sadowski, Ilia Zmiejew, Vladimir Abramushkin, Robert Cichon, Rafal Czachur, Jacek Drozd, Adam Graczyk, Roman Gruszkiewicz, Marek Karpowicz, Joanna Kawiorska, Andrzej Kociubinski, Barbara Kurzaj, Jacek Lenartowicz, Andrzej Mlynarczyk, Jacek Rathe, Andrzej Sitek, Jakub Snochowski, Krzysztof Szczerbinski, Andrzej Szenajch, Zbigniew Swiderski, Agnieszka Wensora, Stefan Wójcicki, Artur Zmijewski, Danuta Stenka, Jan Englert, Magdalena Cielecka, Stanislaw Brudny, Stanislawa Celinska, Wiktoria Gasiewska, Tomasz Miedzik, Dariusz Poleszak, Dariusz Toczek, Tadeusz Wojtych, Wieslaw Wójcik, Miroslaw Bala, Wojciech Chorazy, Piotr Cichon, Dymitr Holówko, Józef Kielar, Piotr Kolski, Filip Kowalczyk, Grzegorz Kwiecien, Wojciech Leonowicz, Maciej Mikolajczyk, Piotr Polak, Modest Rucinski, Szymon Rzaca, Piotr Sieklucki, Klaudia Siemek

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Katyn (2007)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
February 17th, 2009

'Katyn' is centered on the massacre of approximately 20,000 Polish POWs in 1940; it was one of many tragedies that befell Poland during WWII, when it was occupied by both the Nazis and the Soviets, who cut a deal to carve up the nation, with the Germans taking the western half and the Soviets taking most of the eastern portion.

This had happened before, in the 18th century, when the formerly independent kingdom of Poland ceased to exist, partitioned by Prussia and Russia, leaving Poles stranded in three empires, and fighting against each other in WWI. The Germans crushed the Polish army rather swiftly in 1939; the opening scenes show us Poles fleeing the Germans, and running into another group of Poles fleeing the Soviets, amidst the chaos and confusion, we understand the awful choice that awaits them; proceed to the Soviet zone, or stay behind and deal with the Germans.

This is a very personal story for director Andrzej Wajda; his father was one of the victims at Katyn, but he does not linger much on the gruesome details of the atrocity, he focuses instead on a young Polish woman, Anna (Maja Ostaszewska), whose husband Andrzej (Artur Zmijewski), is captured by the Bolsheviks, held in custody until his execution, at Katyn. He is hopeful that he will survive, is sure the British and French will come to the aid of the Poles, and that the fragile alliance between Nazi Germany and the USSR will come to an end, completely unaware of what the Soviets intend to do with these soldiers, after they discover that these men cannot be recruited to the Communist cause; they want a free Poland, and are prepared to fight and die for that goal, not persuaded by Soviet assurances that it is the USSR that has liberated Poland and will restore its independence.

The alliance with Germany does crumble, in 1941, and in 1943, the Germans stumble upon the mass graves in the Katyn forest, and investigate the bodies for propaganda purposes. The Germans report (factually) that the Soviets are responsible for this crime; that each victim was shot in the back of the head, the corpses lined up neatly, and then buried. The Soviets, once they have expelled the Germans from the region, will claim that the Germans were the culprits, and continue to claim this until the Gorbachev era, when admissions of guilt were finally made. Anna, and her mother-in-law, are optimistic that Andrzej is still alive, at least until one of his friends, and former officers, Jerzy (Andrzej Chyra) informs them otherwise, but even he cannot be certain.

Some remains cannot be properly identified. Agnieszka (Magdalena Cielecka) is trying to find out what happened to her brother. Wajda, in his masterpieces Ashes and Diamonds and Kanal, profiled the hellish wartime experiences of his native Poland, and he does so again with 'Katyn', a devastating drama that aims for realism while also engaging our emotions, without overt manipulation. Wajda relies on archival footage and graphic re-enactments of several individual murders, bodies piled onto trucks, brick walls stained crimson, NKVD thugs with pistols shooting hundreds of men in the course of a day, with a detached professionalism that makes you realize they lost their humanity in slavish devotion to ideology, and are hardly any different from the Gestapo or SS.

That is one lesson we can take from 'Katyn'; we see the Nazis deporting university professors, liquidating the intelligentsia, and the Soviets do precisely the same thing, we understand the utter bankruptcy and depravity of both regimes, and why the Poles valiantly resist them with equal fervor. Active and passive resistance, not exactly taking up arms, but tearing down posters, refusing to accept the lies being fed to them by the government, a government that has been imposed on them, and one in which they have no voice, one that they must tolerate for forty years. Yes, Wajda is no fan of either fascism or Communism, and that is painfully evident here. The film, of course, is meticulously edited, beautifully photographed, and hauntingly scored. A remarkable cinematic triumph, and it earns its place among the very best of modern WWII pictures.

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Movie Addict
Feb 18, 2009 8:43 AM
also wrote a review of Katyn
Sounds fascinating. Added it to my queue.

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