Friday, 27 February 2015
World War II. By signing the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, Stalin became a Fascist collaborator and invaded Poland together with the Nazis. Tens of thousands of Polish soldiers and civilians are arrested by Soviet soldiers and deported to an unknown direction. The wife of one of them, Anna, and her daughter, Weronika, wait for any news about her husband, Andrzej. When the mass graves of Polish people who died in the Katyn massacre are discovered, first the Nazi, and after the war, the Bolshevik regime use it for their propaganda, blaming the other side for it. One of the survivors, Jerzy, informs Anna that Andrzej indeed was killed by the Soviets, together with 22,000 Polish citizens in April '40 who were executed.
Ever since "Man of Marble" and "Man of Iron" in the 70s and 80s, Polish director Andrzej Wajda risked a lot to speak up against the long suppressed history of Poland, but without any anger, in order to simply objectively tell the events, and it comes as no surprise that his last big film was "Katyn" about the Bolshevik-Nazi regime and the Katyn genocide, where his father was executed. Not only is it a brave film, but also a rare and honest one that refreshingly had the courage to break the last taboo, a one that everyone is familiar with, anyway, namely that the Soviets were Fascist collaborators. It also subversively implies how Moscow's plan for Greater Russia was fiendishly disguised as a fight for Socialism and social justice. There are several strong sequences here - for instance, the Polish commander speaks to his soldiers who are in Soviet captivity and tells them that he wants to "bring Poland back on the world map"; after the Katyn mass graves are discovered, the families of the victims are played as fools since the Soviets are telling them the crime was done by the Nazis, which culminates in a scene where a blond woman, who survived the Warsaw uprising, is threatened by a Soviet officer because she insists her father was killed in '40, and not in '41, which leads to this exchange: "Are you tired of life?" - "Major, the Germans tried that on me for five years. Don't think it will take you five minutes" - though some moments could have been done stronger and the film drags on slightly in the second half since it was very questionable to spend only the last 12 minutes to show the sole massacre, and not more earlier on. Still, when the crime is finally shown in the finale, it is shocking: Polish prisoners are taken one by one into a basement, where they walk into not knowing what to expect, until they reach the room with a wall in front - they know this is the end, and then a Soviet kills them with a shot in the head. The corpse is thrown out the window, on a truck full of them, while a team quickly splashed the blood away with a bucket of water. This is repeated indefinitely. The sadness of such a sequence, which shows the failure of human beings that something like that can happen, is unmatched, and the film is a vivid testament against those who want to forget history.