The Painted Bird Unclassified 18+
Viewer advice: Contains high-impact violence, high-impact sexual violence, and themes of animal cruelty
This winner of multiple Czech Lion awards as well as Venice’s UNICEF Award is a stunning, utterly harrowing indictment of humanity at its worst.
An adaptation of Jerzy Kosiński’s controversial 1965 novel of the same name, The Painted Bird follows a young boy’s journey through Europe’s war-ravaged amoral heartland. Sold into slavery, accused of being a vampire and buried alive, he finds himself either witness or victim to all manner of savage violence. And yet glimmers of kindness and hope assuage the child’s descent into this living nightmare, paving the way for one of the most breathtaking and morally complex cinematic experiences of the year.
In his third feature, director Václav Marhoul utilises the talents of multi-award-winning cinematographer Vladimír Smutný (Kolya), whose incredible black-and-white 35mm footage transforms the unrelenting parade of depredations and degradations into something sublime. Newcomer Petr Kotlár turns in a remarkable performance as the unnamed boy, supported by a sterling cast that includes Udo Kier, Harvey Keitel, Stellan Skarsgård and Julian Sands. Marhoul also opted to use a constructed language, Interslavic, to dissociate the onscreen horrors from any actual nation, yet the message is clear: the carnage of war debases all equally.
“A monumental piece of work … Marhoul spins a war-torn history into a phantasmagorical horror.” – The Guardian
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