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The Painted Bird(Nabarvené ptáče)

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭   Read critic reviews

Czech Republic, Ukraine, Slovakia · 2019
2h 49m
Director Václav Marhoul
Starring Petr Kotlár, Nina Šunevič, Alla Sokolova, Udo Kier
Genre Drama, History, Horror, Thriller, War

A young Jewish boy in an unidentified area of war-torn Eastern Europe seeks refuge in the forest during World War II where he encounters different characters: An old healer who blames him for bad luck, a violent miller, a tortured bird breeder. A vitally important film full of horrific encounters with ignorance, exploitation, and depravity.

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What are critics saying?


The Hollywood Reporter by Deborah Young

As in the book, the shock effect of coldly detailed incest, bestiality and sexual abuse, beatings, killings and mutilation is furiously nonstop in a film of nearly three hours. Rather than numbing the viewer, however, the parade of evil is presented in a dismaying crescendo of horror that offers no escape.


Variety by Guy Lodge

The film’s sheer unblinking stamina is as impressive as its pristine formal composure, though it has to be said that at nearly three hours — somewhat surprising, considering the novel’s brevity — its blunt-instrument force doesn’t yield much fresh perspective on oft-dramatized atrocities.


CineVue by John Bleasdale

Is The Painted Bird exaggerated? Does it go too far? Does it break the limits of taste? “Yes” on all counts. Walking out is an understandable and valid reaction but watching, getting angry, suffering and approaching understanding is also important too.


Screen Daily by Lee Marshall

There is beauty in the 35mm black and white landscapes and framings of this painterly widescreen feature, but it stands in stark contrast with the alienating narrative and tone of a film which, like Kosinski’s book, takes a strange relish in charting the descent of simple country folk of a never-named country into sexual depravity and joyless cruelty.


Film Threat by Norman Gidney

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.


Rolling Stone by Peter Travers

Extending its litany of horrors to nearly three hours, the film is certainly an endurance test. Yet its potent presentation, notably Vladimir Smutny’s striking monochromatic cinematography, gives the film the raw impact of a documentary.


TheWrap by Robert Abele

The Painted Bird ... is not the wallowing miserablist parade you might fear, yet not quite the Holocaust-themed masterpiece it wishes to be. But it’s always starkly compelling as a reminder of why war survival stories are essential to our understanding of innocence and beastliness.


The Guardian by Xan Brooks

I can state without hesitation that this is a monumental piece of work and one I’m deeply glad to have seen. I can also say that I hope to never cross its path again.

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