Katyn (‘Katyń’)

DRAMA; 1hr 59min (Polish, Russian and German with subtitles)

STARRING: Maja Ostaszewska, Artur Zmijewski

Till death us do part: Ostaszewska and Zmiljewski

Non-Polish history buffs would be wise to do their homework before sitting down to director Andrzej Wajda’s meal of misery: without any ado, Katyn plunges into the 1939 Soviet Red Army invasion of Poland. Andrzej (Zmijewski) is a Polish captain, captured like hundreds of thousands of soldiers and sent to a camp. His devastated wife, Anna (Ostaszewska), waits in vain for his return. Meanwhile, the Polish prisoners can only speculate about the fate that befalls them in the spring of 1940 when, at Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s command, close to 15,000 Polish prisoners-of-war are slaughtered in Katyń forest by the Soviet secret police.


All this is appalling, of course, especially since Wajda’s father was one of the actual victims. But beware an auteur with an emotive axe to grind. The woe-soaked saga plods along with a gloomy disregard for coherence and momentum as three fictional families are torn apart. And since the characters exist to serve the big picture, they are sketched with such dour little strokes that each blends into the other, reducing much of the impact of Wajda’s heartsick statement to a leaden ordeal.