Sunday, February 22, 2009


My idea of a perfect Saturday night date is to round out the evening, in addition to the obvious, with a good Polish/Russian war crimes film.  And so we took up Katyn last night---the famed Polish director Andrzej Wajda's film about the massacre of 20+ thousand Polish military officers, political leaders and intellectuals by the Soviet NKVD during the early years of WW II.

Powerful is an understatement for films of this nature, and we were riveted to our seats for two hours, despite the intense and graphic treatment of the subject matter.  Although Wajda's film was not about the Jews, it reminded me of some of the best of the Holocaust films I have seen, such as Night & Fog, yet far superior to Schindler's List, which, interestingly, took place in and around the same locale--Krakow. 

Polish history is tragic, and Katyn magnifies this sense of tragedy--but with no melodrama (N.B. Steven Spielberg)--and the unfortunate accident of geography that has placed Poland in such peril over the centuries.  We didn't learn much about Poland in high school, aside from its location at the epicenter of the Holocaust, perhaps because, whereas the Polish nation has existed for over a thousand years, the country all but disappeared for most of the last 300.  I was fortunate to have visited Krakow last summer and had my eyes opened about this fascinating country.

Using the logic of criminal law, but with much greater dramatic impact, Wajda's film makes the point that the acknowledgment of the date of the martyrdom during the war was the marker that divided the political loyalties between the pro-German and pro-Russian factions among the people.  

This is a must-see film, though you'll not find it in general distribution or on Netflix.  For fellow New Yorkers, you'll find it at the Film Forum.  Go.

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