Caught Andrzej Wajda’s Katyń this week as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival and have to say I was fairly impressed. It will probably be the only film I’ll see since the prices go up at this time of year, and indeed I was quite lucky to catch this one since the first showing sold out with over a week to go, no doubt in large part due to the significant number of Polish people living in Dublin. Sadly, being sat right at the front didn’t give a particularly good vantage point for flicking between the pictures and the subtitles, and this is one film I’ll have to watch again on DVD before I can fully make up my mind, but the screenplay was well written and easy to follow despite the amalgam of different plotlines. Unfortunately, some of the character portrayals were rather wooden and to some extent detracted from the film’s message, if there is one beyond the plain Rankean historical analysis.
Nevertheless, Krzysztof Penderecki provides a beautiful score to underline the images, with a smattering of Tchaikovsky and Chopin thrown in during some of the propaganda scenes. As a piece of cinematography the film probably deserves its Oscar nomination, though it is difficult to tell whether it will be remembered more for that or its political implications. That the film does not get caught in a loop of nationalist propagandism is important in light of the tendencies in Moscow and elsewhere. Power is not what comes from the end of a gun but the ability to make people believe ones lies. Certainly disturbing news from Putin’s Russia.
The film’s climax is a rather visceral, and to some extents shocking visual of what the film is after all about. However it does offer an interesting juxtaposition for those taken by the irrationality of mankind—as officer after officer is dispatched in the name of political idealism, these same go to their deaths with a prayer on their lips. Absurd or simply tragic? One thing however is for certain, and that is that my quest for the non-melancholy Polish film continues…
For a brave new future.