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The Painted Bird

Václav Marhoul

A young Jewish boy encounters the worst of humanity as he wanders Eastern Europe during the Second World War, in director Václav Marhoul’s adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s infamous Holocaust novel.

“a plunge into the darkest corners of the human soul… not for the faint-hearted”

The Painted Bird is a plunge into the darkest corners of the human soul. Definitely not for the faint-hearted, the film – featuring an ensemble cast that includes Harvey Keitel, Stellan Skarsgård and Udo Kier – tells the story of a lone Jewish child (Petr Kotlár) who wanders Eastern Europe during The Second World War, meeting senseless violence and torture along the way. In a defining moment, a peasant shows the boy the flight of a captive bird, painted and released back into its flock. The bird, now different from its fellows, is ripped apart. That critical lesson embodies the boy's own experiences: difference is fatal.

Director Václav Marhoul's film is a series of tableaux that take our helpless protagonist on a brutal journey into a period of incongruous and untempered hatred and fear of the other. This harsh world is captured in uncomfortable detail in Vladimir Smutny's stunning 35mm black-and-white cinematography and Pavel Rejholec's powerful sound work.