THE PAINTED BIRD

Czech  Republic/Poland/
Slovakia/Ukraine

2019 - 169 min.

director.gif (905 bytes)Václav Marhoul

CAST

Petr Kotlar - The Boy
Jitka Cvancarová - Ludmila

Stellan Skarsgård - Hans

Harvey Keitel - Priest
Udo Kier - Miller
Julian Sands - Garbos
Aleksey Kravchenko - Gavrila
Petr Vanek - Nikodem
 


SYNOPSIS

Based on the novel by Jerzy Kosinski. Trying to protect their child from the mass extermination of Jews, a Jewish couple sends their son to a relative in the countryside somewhere in Eastern Europe. However, the boy’s aunt dies unexpectedly and the child is forced to set out on a lone journey through the wild and hostile world governed only by local rules, prejudices and superstitions. When the war ends, his fight for physical survival is replaced by a different kind of a fight. A battle he may not even be aware of, a battle with himself, a battle for his soul, his future...
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button_box.gif (205 bytes)STELLAN:

"It's a great book that excited me years ago when I read it for the first time. I met Vaclav Marhoul, the director of the adaptation, years ago. His sister was married to one of my friends. I didn't hear from him for a long time and he turned to me with this bizarre project a few years ago. My role cannot really be called a role. I only have two filming days, but I wanted to do this film. In addition, I love filming in Prague."

button_box.gif (205 bytes)PRODUCTION NOTES & PHOTOS:

Filming began on March 23, 2017. With 105 shooting days planned, the production was split into six phases with filming taking place in Slovakia, in the Czech Republic and, for the final phase, in the Polish town of Świebodzice in June 2018. The budget of the project was €5.8 million and the final film should be unveiled in May 2019, before going on general release in Slovak and Czech cinemas in September 2019.

 

button_box.gif (205 bytes)MOVIE STILLS
 

 

button_box.gif (205 bytes)REVIEWS

"Sometimes you can tell a movie is going to be great from its first frame. First comes the image, then the satisfaction of knowing you are in good hands. 'The Painted Bird' is one of those films, even if some of its shocking imagery might not be for everyone."  ...Asher Lumberto, LA Weekly

"Marhoul’s ability to lure a who’s who of top international character actors speaks to the power and depth of the script that attracted them. And Oscar, accordingly, took notice, making 'The Painted Bird' one of the 10 semifinalists for this year’s Best International Picture. It shockingly failed to make the final cut, its place likely usurped by the vastly overrated 'Honeyland.' But don’t let that dissuade you. This is filmmaking of the highest order, and the fact that it makes you squirm only adds to its level of visceral power."  ...Al Alexander, The Patriot Ledger

"Shooting on 35mm black and white film at a 1:2.35 aspect ratio offers a richly emotive format that brings out the film’s strongest qualities: the performances. The slimness of dialogue is more than made up for in the close-ups and layered performances from newcomer Petr Kotlár and veteran actors Stellan Skarsgård, Harvey Keitel, and Udo Kier. 'The Painted Bird' is an evocative, painfully stunning cinematic achievement that celebrates the perseverance of the human spirit."  ...Morgan Rojas, Cinemacy

"All of this unvarnished evil is depicted with haunting beauty and uncompromising artistry. Shot in 35mm black-and-white by master Czech cinematographer Vladimír Smutný, every shot is breathtaking to behold."   ...Oliver Jones, Observer

"Both the beauty and brutality are brought to life more through visuals than through sound. 'The Painted Bird' is a film where dialogue is seldom used. Characters speak only when necessary for the film or scene. Many times communicating through nonverbals – action speaks loudest here. The strength of communication relies on the ability of the actors even more. Body language is at its utmost importance and each member of the cast delivers it with perfection."   ...Stephanie Archer, Film Inquiry

"As exhausting as it is eye-opening, this gut-wrenching adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s coming-of-age novel is not for all tastes. However, it rewards open-minded viewers with a provocative exploration of brutality and oppression through the story of an orphaned Jewish boy (Petr Kotlar) who experiences one horrific act after another, set against the backdrop of the Holocaust."  ...Todd Jorgenson, Cinemalogue

"'The Painted Bird' is at its most magnificent when it lingers on the poetry of its images. The film’s lyrical approach to representing a child’s suffering, through surreal impressions, keeps it from becoming a manipulative and miserabilist tale." ...Diego Semerene, Slant magazine

"The mini-portraits of two soldiers (Stellan Skarsgård’s stoic German and Barry Pepper’s protective Red Army sniper) provide some of the film’s scarce episodes of kindness, albeit the kind born of atrocity-laden weariness, as the actors’ finely etched, compact performances reveal."   ...Robert Abele, The Wrap

"Marhoul’s mastery is unquestionable on a technical level. His black and white photography is stunning, especially the bright eyes peeking out in dark rooms, and every war scene is pulled off with what looks like impossible confidence and logistical skill. Absolutely not for everyone, and very hard to outright recommend, The Painted Bird is a searing work of art that can be just as rewarding as it is harrowing."   ...Jack Blackwell, One Room with a View

"Judged purely on visual terms, The Painted Bird is gorgeous: a lush black-and-white tour of birch forests and bulrushes and remote rustic hamlets. Judged as drama, it is brazenly brutal, a pitiless chronicle of a land red in tooth and claw, so steeped in primitive suspicions that it’s startling to suddenly see a 20th-century plane or a truck, or spot actors from less threatening pictures. Look, there’s Stellan Skarsgård playing a foursquare German; Harvey Keitel as a misguided Catholic priest; Julian Sands as the paedophile parishioner who is eager to take the boy in."  ...Xan Brooks, The Guardian

"The extreme lashings of suffering and sadism shown here are scarcely ameliorated by the exacting beauty of their presentation. Shooting in ravishing 35mm monochrome, apt enough for illustrating a world drawn into stark black-and-white polarities of good and (mostly, it seems) evil, The Painted Bird teases its audience into gazing with wonder upon its silvery, shadow-streaked rural tableaux before repeatedly confronting them with images far harder to face with open eyes."  ...Guy Lodge, Variety

"The choice to shoot in black and white and in 35mm brings depth to the essential, often cheerless imagery, occasionally lit by purifying fires and snow-white blizzards. Production designer Jan Vlasak brings the villages with their thatched huts, prominent outhouses and stone churches to life with the vividness of a fable."  ...Deborah Young, Hollywood Reporter

"Artfully structured, elegantly shot and punishing to the extreme, it rewards endurance; to experience it and find your humanity intact is an achievement."  ...Jason Shawhan, Nashville Scene

"However relentless the misery becomes, 'The Painted Bird' is also utterly compelling. It has the sweep of a Dickens novel, a Biblical resonance and gorgeous black and white cinematography from Vladimír Smutný that finds beauty and grace in every step of this nightmare journey. It is a film that prompts comparisons with the sombre soul-searching of an Ingmar Bergman or an Andrei Tarkovsky."  ...Allan Hunter, The List, UK

"This sprawling Czech epic takes the audience in an unforgettable odyssey through World War II. Shot in shimmering black and white, scenes look exquisite, giving the film an instantly classic tone. Each episode of this allegory carries an unexpected kick as it reflects real life in bracingly full-on ways."   ...Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

"For all the horror, the film feels vital. 'The Painted Bird' shames the human race, but the glimmers of hope, the glints of goodness that break through, are startling. And amidst all the horror, there is humanity. Even as the film seems hellbent on making you despair for your species, compassion creeps in. There is a catharsis. By the time it’s done, the pile-on feels warranted. And throughout the whole thing, somehow, there is godlike grace. It is entrancing all the way."  ...Alex Godfrey, Empire

"Praise must be given to Václav Marhoul for adapting this important work and to newcomer Kotlar, who is tasked with carrying the nearly three-hour film. What could have easily become an exhausting endeavor is guided deftly away from the precipice to become a celebration of determination. Hardly any of The Painted Bird is what you would call pleasant. It is often a difficult watch at times but is a consistently engaging one."   ...Norman Gidney, Film Threat

"Shot in gorgeous black and white Cinemascope (the beauty of the images serve as ironic counterpoint to the repellent behavior of many of the characters), the film is a darkly picaresque tale of a mute pre-adolescent Jewish boy's journey through Nazi-occupied Europe."   ...Richard Porton, The Daily Beast

"Czech director-writer Václav Marhoul does a masterful job with its frightful visuals and in the intense telling of the compelling narrative. It’s an outstanding drama, one worth seeing lest we forget how tragic the Nazi terror actually was to the innocent souls in its path."   ...Film critic Dennis Schwartz

"'The Painted Bird' – shot crisply by Vladimír Smutný – deals in visual poetry that compels attention even as it wallows in unkindness. To come to any sort of redemptive resolution would be a betrayal of the film’s unforgiving aesthetic, but Marhoul does manage to complete the odyssey with a satisfactory catharsis."   ...Donald Clarke, Irish Times

"'The Painted Bird' is at once a powerful and unbearable experience. To call it challenging is an understatement. Yet it would also be appropriate to call it poetic. How to approach this film? The answer to that question lies in its meaning and purpose. Many films only seek escapism from the human experience, director Václav Marhoul does the complete opposite and journeys right into it with all its suffering, terror and brief glimpses of hope. It is set in Eastern Europe amid World War II, but it reaches beyond that theme or subject. Marhoul casts a mirror on the very form and nature of cruelty and endurance."   ...Alci Rengifo, Entertainment Voice