The Painted Bird

audience Reviews

, 63% Audience Score
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    I read "The Painted Bird" 50 years ago and found the reading difficult but ehard to put down. The memories of the book haunted me for years. I later read reviews by critics who accused Kosinski of plagiarizing or inventing his material. Perhaps I had been duped into reading something I should not. One of the lines of critique engages in the notion that the book--and the movie--are depictions of Nazi Germany. Indeed, the critics say, the scenes did not take place in Germany. The Germans played a small role. It's therefore not a good movie about the Holocaust. But that's wrong. The greatest excesses of the Holocaust did in fact occur outside of Germany in Eastern Europe. Even German Jews, and for that matter Dutch and French Jews, were deported into Eastern Europe to be murdered. The story line of the Painted Bird is almost certainly apocryphal, a work of fiction, not a documentary. Like all fiction, it draws its material from human nature. The various depictions of ugliness provided in the book--and in the movie--might never have been witnessed by any one person, and a few might not have actually ever occurred, and only been invented in the imaginations of twisted people. But the fact remains the stories are there, the notions of depravity are there. And the fact remains that in Eastern Europe in the 1940s a massive amount of unspeakable, depraved cruelty happened. The movie almost perfectly captures Kozinski's story. One can argue whether the story itself should have been told, for the reasons I mentioned above. I believe that it is an important story, not as a document of historical detail, but as a document of human ignorance and cruelty. If we fail to understand that ignorance and cruelty were at the core of the depravity that enveloped Eastern Europe, we have missed not only what happened, but are inviting it to happen again.
  • Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
    I could barely get through the first half hour, it's too graphic and mean for my tastes
  • Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
    Václav Marhoul made a film and it's pretty graphic and it just doesn't work. Marhoul produced, wrote and directed 'The Painted Bird' based on the novel and, well, you be the judge. It was never boring, but more in the way people rubberneck at an accident cleared off to the side of the highway than anything else. It's a herculean task to get grasp of everything Marhoul is attempting to do and that overambitious effort leads to a miss. Is it art? Is it exploitative? Maybe some of column A and some of column B. Final Score: 5.0/10
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    From the opening scene to the very end, I cried. This is not an easy film to watch, I had to cover my eyes at times as a seemly endless parade of human cruelty, inhumanity and depravity marched by; but at the same time, it was touching and beautiful. Beautifully written, acted, filmed and directed. It’s a courageous movie and a testament to the endurance of the human spirit amid almost unimaginable suffering. It leaves you pondering the human condition and the blindness of hatred and prejudice—literally.
  • Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars
    Normally I'm all for these types of movies, the really explicit films trying to make a point with artistic merit, challenging their audiencing, and I enjoy and defend these films... but yhis one doesn't have many redeeming values. The critics lie when they say it has emotional impact, it's more of a numbing sensation from being on the other end of a punch-drunk wrestler who just got his life ruined right before his eyes. The movie opens with a sequence of shocking animal cruelty -- points to the film for shock value, creativity, originality, and uses of quietness and minimalism by the way -- and from there it's just 3 hours of scene-after-scene unpleasantness. It's not entertaining, it KIND OF gets a reaction out of you, but it doesn't leave you emotionally compelled just turned off because there's no significance to what you're seeing for either character development, plot, or atmosphere. It's just unpleasant, miserable cruelty for the sake of exploitation and I think it's trying to have a message but it lost what it was in the process, because nothing seems to really correlate other than "let's abuse the little boy on-screen as brutally as possible as many times as possible" and I'm not sure what the point of it all was. There wasn't really a plot, just being passed to different acclaimed actors (Harvey Keitel, Udo Kier, and Stellan Skarsgard) who made me interested in the movie in the first place along with the acclaim. It was more horrific than any horror movie I'd seen despite being labeled a drama. The uncompromisingly bleak visuals do have a sad, memorable beauty to them when something inexcusable isn't happening. There's NC-17 movies I found less unpleasant than this one. Just not a good time in the slightest. It sounds terrible without context, but other war dramas, WWII movies like Schindler's List are at least enjoyable. They're a bit sad, but it's necessary. What scene in this movie feels necessary to the whole? There's no cohesion! Maybe it's my fault for watching an Udo Kier and Stellan Skarsgard movie, like I should've expected Lars Von Trier, but I just wasn't prepared for arthouse horror tonight. I usually love those movies, but those I knew what I was getting into and I never got bored.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    You have to be up for a dark and stark picture that describes much of the human condition. But if you are up for it, this is a well made and acted film.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    The Painted Bird, based on the bleak-as-all-hell-not-at-all-biographical novel of the same name, is close to 3 hours of a young boy wandering around a continent torn apart by war and, it would seem, 18th century superstition. I picked up the book in 2014 and it was a very compelling read. The horrors it describes are savage and unrelenting, and it doesn't have many moments of levity. It also isn't very long. The movie adaptation is almost 170 minutes, and while it fits in plenty of violence, there's also an absurd amount of downtime. The book was well-paced and always had something going on, but the film often drags its heels, with characters standing around staring at nothing in particular or walking slowly around. It's like the film keeps getting interrupted by an annoying arthouse flick, and you find yourself actually anticipating the violence just to alleviate the tedium, something you didn't get with the book. It's got some fairly big name, but most of the actors you'll recognise have little more than cameos, with the great Stellan Skarsgård not even getting a single word of dialogue. It's a weird combination of Eli Roth torture porn and Terrence Malick arthouse pretentions. Its bloated length is compounded by its languid pacing, and had about an hour been cut out, which is very doable, it would have been an easier watch. I admire the talent and effort which went into it, and when it wants you to sit up and take notice, you always do. Not for the faint of heart, or those with less than 3 hours to kill, but it's a noble effort nonetheless.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    Amazing movie --- heartbreaking, thought-provoking, emotional, and tear jerker.... all the feelings I love from an epic movie like this...
  • Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Amazing bleak and poignant
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    A few months ago, I reviewed Come And See, a masterful 1985 film which followed a young Soviet boy through the horrors of life during World War II. Clearly influenced by Jerzy Kosinki's indelible yet discredited 1965 autobiography, the plot centered around a young Eastern European Jewish boy wandering from town to town towards the end of World War II and experiencing one atrocity after another. The story may or may not have been true, or perhaps plagiarized or based on someone else's life, but the concept proved unforgettable. Finally brought to the screen by Václav Marhoul, this nearly three hour black and white film may lack the experimentation and cacophony of sound from Come And See, but it possesses gorgeous cinematography, a fantastic central performance, and an intimacy which will punch you in the gut over and over again. Told in nine chapters named after the people he encounters, The Painted Bird follows a young boy whose parents have left him in the care of a stern but kind elderly relative. When she dies suddenly, the boy accidentally burns down their rural house and wanders aimlessly from one unnamed town to the next. As he encounters bigoted villagers, Nazis, sadists, abusers, pedophiles and more, we don't so much see a child lose his innocence as we bear witness to an already benumbed survivor making one tough, soul-changing decision after another. Marhoul reportedly discovered Petr Kotlár in one of the towns he scouted for the production, and he gives a quiet, observant, stoic performance and does so with almost no dialogue. Shot over a two year period, one can see the difference in age and body shape from time to time, but his commitment to the role remains hugely impressive. He reminded me of Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon, in that you believed in his strength and his ability to convey his ever-hardening thoughts. Marhoul laces the film with many brief but memorable star cameos, most likely to boost international sales. Udo Kier and Julian Sands make the biggest impressions as two men wrongly entrusted to care for the boy at different times. Alexsey Kravchenko, who played the young man in Come And See, also appears as a Soviet military officer, clearly passing the torch on to Petr Kotlár. Although mostly kept offscreen, the film's brutality will likely overwhelm most viewers. Its stifling, repetitive qualities aim more to keep a record of the terrors millions of people experienced at the time rather than to entertain. If you're seeking some light entertainment, look elsewhere. This film evokes words like grueling, harrowing, and uncompromising. Having said that, The Painted Bird never bored me. It's grand visuals, courtesy of cinematographer Vladimír Smutný, reminded me of those in Roma. The framing keeps you off balance and in the shoes of our young protagonist but also serves to convey the scope and scale of the harshness. One sequence, in which a trainload of Jews attempt to escape from a moving train will stay with me for a long time. I also appreciated the many setups and payoffs in a film which may feel episodic yet actually builds towards something. The vastness and stark beauty of the landscapes may look awe-inspiring but feel more hopeless and daunting from the point of view of our main character. Come And See left me without a shred of hope for humanity, whereas The Painted Bird, whose title refers to a young bird torn apart by a flock because of its differences to them, ends with just the tiniest bit of levity. We continue to feel the impact of the Holocaust to this day with ever-growing and ever-emboldened hatred of others getting permission to do so from our so-called leaders. We also navigate the trauma, often left unexamined, in the people who suffered at the hands of monsters. I never want to see The Painted Bird again, but I don't really have to, as I will never forget it.