I’ll try to keep this one brief because it’s Friday and the weather’s sunny and I’m going home to Sacramento after work because my mom won a bike she’s giving to me and because we don’t need a lengthy dissertation on a brutal WWII era massacre.
The San Francisco Film Society started screening Katyn today (the 19th). It goes until the 25th at the Sundance Kabuki. Their description has this to say:
“In the village of Katyn in May 1940, the Soviet army brutally murdered 15,000 Polish POWs, to crush Polish hopes for future independence. For 50 years afterward, the USSR denied responsibility, cynically blaming the Nazis. Wajda [the director], whose father was one of those killed, focuses less on the crimes of war than on the people left in its wake. Their interwoven stories draw us into a world where the struggle for memory and truth takes place amid a chilling conspiracy of silence.”
The film is as you would expect. There are great period piece details and beautiful, dramatic shots of Krakow, solid acting performances and a snowball pace that sets you up and knocks you down. It’s a tragic movie about a tragic event, but it neither relishes dreadfully in the misery nor shoots straight at the eyes. It instead opts to give an objective yet human account of the personal suffering, the cover-up conspiracies, and the national alienation of WWII Poland.
If it was me, and I’m humbly glad it wasn’t, I would have focused more on the blatant conspiracy to blame the event on the Germans than on the pure, determined, and noble insistence on letting the truth be known. Doing this pays a sincere and necessary honor to the dead and keeps the massacre in our collective moral conscious, yes, but I feel it could have done more to put the value of truth and transparency in a contemporary context. But that wasn’t its purpose. Its purpose was to dramatically chronicle the event by mixing poignant and heartfelt stories about a very real atrocity. And it does just that very convincingly.
Now have a wonderful weekend…or else!