Katyn is well made but what is the truth?
PUBLISHED: 12:47 26 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:17 07 September 2010
It's 1939 and, in the opening scene, the Poles get their first inkling of the hideous
Director Andrej Wajda Starring Artur Zmijewski, Maja Ostaszewska, Andrej Chyrna, Danuta Stenka and Maja Komorowska
Polish with subtitles
It's 1939 and, in the opening scene, the Poles get their first inkling of the hideous 50-year prank history is about to play on them.
Polish refugees fleeing the advance of the Nazis from the west head straight into another group of the country's refugees fleeing the advance of the Red Army from the east.
Wajda made his name with films about life under communist rule. Now he has gone back to where it all began with a wartime atrocity in which 15,000 Polish prisoners of war - including his father - were executed and buried in the woods by the Soviets.
The first third plays like a standard patriotic war story, with lots of noble Poles showing great fortitude as they suffer the tyrannies of both the Nazis and the Soviets.
As the movie moves towards the end of the war and the start of the Soviet-controlled People's Poland, the film becomes more interesting.
Katyn is rewritten as a Nazi atrocity by the new rulers and the various surviving family members have to decide how far they are prepared to go to maintain the truth.
It is a well-made piece of serious drama - although I feel like taking issue with the ending.
Having restricted itself to exploring events leading up to and away from the massacre but leaving the event itself to be represented only by archive footage of the bodies being dug up, right at the end Wajda decides to recreate it.
I can see the dramatic rationale. This is a film about events that have been falsified and lied about by the perpetrators for 50 years - now it's time for the victims to replace that false narrative with their own version.
But maybe some things should go unfilmed. Or if filmed, at least left unaccompanied by music.
The images of the actor Polish prisoners being methodically shot one by one by actor Soviet soldiers is accompanied by some haunting and disturbing music by Polish composer Penderecki.
If you're going to put music with these scenes than this piece is a very good choice - except it was previously used in The Shining.
So something that should be beyond human acceptance inadvertently makes a link back to normal society and becomes just another addition to the store of images that we alternately horrify and entertain ourselves with.