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Katyn by Andrzej Wajda, a film review

Guest Author - Barbara Swiech

The movie tells about the Katyn Massacre of 1940 during which almost 22 thousand of Polish military officers, policemen and civilian prisoners of war by NKWD were murdered. Since the topic is still very fiercely talked about, there even seemed to be the need for screening one of the most important events of Poland’s history. However, the movie does not aim at settling accounts with the past but is a tribute paid to the victims of Katyn Crime.

As Andrzej Wajda is one of the best Polish directors, creator of many other great movies depicting the most important moments of the country, I could not imagine anybody else making ‘Katyn’. As Wajda’s father (professional military officer) was murdered in ‘Katyn’ it gave the film emotional element of great value. The film was made in 2007 – almost 70 years after actual events.

The cast was very carefully chosen and consisted mostly of numerous known actors of new generation. Although for them the Katyn Massacre has surely different meaning than to people like Wajda, the actors were just about the same age as the NKWD prisoners at the moment of their killing. However, as many of them are famous for acting in popular Polish TV series, it seemed risky to me to offer them such pathetic roles. Some of them did not disappoint me with their play (nor surprise me as I was aware of their talent), some of them surprised me (as I knew about their play just as much as I saw in typical Polish soap operas) while others could be still better. However, some of the scenes (especially the one in which the prisoners gather together) are breathtaking as the actors managed to create exceptional atmosphere that was expected from that movie.

I cannot say that I loved that film… but I believe it is not the kind of films that one might just love. I did not like the general plot in which all the characters seemed to be connected in some strange way or coincidence. But after all they indeed were connected – simply by the fact how their fathers, brothers and husbands died. ‘Katyn’ aimed at showing those families not only as those who suffered such a great loss but also the way they dealt with their lives.

The film can indeed make strong impression – especially on those that do not know much about Katyn Crime. It can be a great history lesson but only with at least basic knowledge on the event itself – otherwise one can get lost in the plot.

In spite of my small personal disappointment with the film, I would still encourage you to watch it. Reading about Katyn Massacre in advance is, however, strongly recommended.
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