In an unidentified area of war-torn Eastern Europe, a young boy is sent by his parents to live in safety with his aunt. But she dies unexpectedly, so he sets off on a journey to return home. He roams alone in a wild and hostile world in which only local rules, prejudices and superstitions apply. His struggle for virtually physical survival after the war turns into a battle of a different type. A battle that he doesn't even realize, a fight with himself, a fight for his soul, for his future.Written by
Having finally seen Václav Marhoul's talked about THE PAINTED BIRD, I can't help but feel quite disappointed by an eventually pretentious film that neither justifies its reputation nor its overblown runtime.
First of all, THE PAINTED BIRD lacks any real depth. It spends almost three hours showcasing a young Jewish boy's journey through an unspecified region in Eastern Europe during World War II, but there is absolutely no impact to the severe change the protagonist goes through as the film maintains an irritating distance to this character from the beginning. I also found the lack of any historical foundation and a sense of time increasingly annoying - the war basically acts as a mere backdrop to a series of cruel scenarios with lots of misplaced cameos.
The extreme violence somehow manages to be completely ineffective and mostly comes off as voyeuristic, nihilistic and at times even unintentionally comical. While I appreciated some of Marhoul's decisions and casting choices throughout the film (the scene with the young woman in her shack or the appearance of Aleksey Kravchenko f. e.), others felt completely out of place and contradictive to the bleak and serious tone - namely the use of the Wilhelm scream during a village raid and the casting of Barry Pepper as a sniper (*wink* *wink*). The film also contains a lot of scenes with characters being silent for no reason other than it trying to be contemplative and artsy.
Despite those harsh words, THE PAINTED BIRD is not a terrible film. But it's also in no way noteworthy and most of the time just try-hard filmmaking that is far from genre masterpieces like Elem Klimov's COME AND SEE.
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