“The Painted Bird,” Directed by Václav Marhoul, 2 hours 49 minutes
My movie buddy and I watched this film streamed from HULU in our comfortable living room. If we had seen it in a theater, I don’t know if we could have stayed through it. I understand that many other moviegoers have walked out, not because they didn’t appreciate the film, but because they appreciated it too much!
You can tell it’s a novel. Too much happens with too many characters for an original screenplay. Also, it’s really long. It’s in the starkest black and white. The main character is mute, most of the characters are too miserable to talk, so it’s almost a silent movie.
The story, briefly, is about an Eastern European boy who suffers through the period coincident with World War II. He wanders from one miserable hovel to the next and suffers amazing, disgusting, depredations from backward and somewhat insane perpetrators. They don’t limit themselves to persecuting the boy. Some of the things they do to one another are extremely difficult to watch and almost impossible to put into words.
On the technical side of the production, any one of several amazing accomplishments would make this art movie worth watching. I don’t see how they managed to assemble such an array of international movie stars. I can’t begin to explain how they managed to train the animals to portray such wild extremes of behavior. The cinematography is breathtaking. The props include authentic German and Russian war machines. All the settings are either gorgeous or grotesque. In short, the movie is done well.
And finally, what does it all mean? Does it mean that many humans, perhaps a majority, are cruel and perverted? Does it mean that humans, even an unprotected little boy, can endure almost anything? Or is it just a statement about certain people in a certain place and a certain period of time? Probably, it will mean different things to different people, but I can almost guarantee that the effect will be on a grand scale and this movie will be talked about for some time to come.
I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio talk show every Saturday at 9AM Central Time. We podcast the program and “Workers Beat Extra” on Wednesdays. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site.