7/10. Katyn, Andrzej Wajda’s latest film, takes as its subject the massacre by the USSR of several thousand Polish officer POWs in April 1940. While the film ends with a very graphic rendition of the killings, for almost all of its two hours the focus is on the fate of those left behind, with most of the attention centred on three women – the wife of a general, the wife of a major and the sister of a pilot/engineer.
Cumulatively, the film builds a devastating portrait at a very personal level of the impact of the war and its aftermath. Implicated here are not just the Katyn massacres but the Nazis brutality and the repression of the Communist regime in the early post-war period when it ‘rewrote’ the events of Katyn (blaming the massacre on the Nazis) and acted vigorously to silence those who spoke out against these distortions.
While not quite a match in its narrative sweep for Man of Marble, or in its photography and style for Ashes and Diamonds, this was still very powerful filmmaking whose impact on the viewer was commensurate with its subject matter – you will leave this film sadder than you entered it.