Rent The Painted Bird (2019)

3.5 of 5 from 172 ratings
2h 47min
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The film follows the journey of a boy Joska (Petr Kotlár), entrusted by his Jewish parents to an elderly foster mother in an effort to escape persecution. Following a tragedy, the boy is on his own. Wandering through the desecrated countryside, the boy encounters villagers and soldiers whose own lives have been brutally altered, and who are intent on revisiting this brutality on the boy. When the war ends, the boy has been changed, forever.
Petr Kotlar, Nina Sunevic, Alla Sokolova, Stanislav Bilyi, , , Michaela Dolezalová, , , Jitka Cvancarová, Daniel Beroun, , Marie Stripkova, Milan Simácek, , , Dominik Weber, , , Josef Bedlivy
Aleksandr Kushaev, Václav Marhoul
Jerzy Kosinski, Václav Marhoul
Action & Adventure, Drama
Remembering Julian Sands and Frederic Forrest
Release Date:
Not released
Run Time:
167 minutes
Release Date:
Run Time:
169 minutes
Interslavic DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen 2.39:1
B & W
BLU-RAY Regions:
  • "11 Colours of the Bird" (125 mins) - a behind-the-scenes look at the incredible 11-year process it took director Václav Marhoul to create the film version of Jerzy Kosiski's controversial novel

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Reviews (5) of The Painted Bird

Not comfortable viewing, but compelling - The Painted Bird review by NP

Spoiler Alert

For a film that clocks in at nearly three hours, this is very easy to watch. That shouldn’t be confused with comfortable viewing: one of the first scenes we see involves the burning of a weasel. Far worse atrocities are displayed further on, but enough potential spoilers.

There is no incidental music here, no pretence at pace. There is very little dialogue and it is filmed in crisp black and white. To say it is bleak is underselling it – there is a very real beauty to the endless fairytale countryside and architecture, and it is all evocatively directed and produced by Václav Marhoul (it took ten years for him to get the venture financed).

A Jewish boy who is not named until the end, wanders around war-torn Eastern Europe and witnesses, and becomes involved with, many appalling situations. There are no answers, no solutions, just more of the same.

I was pleasantly surprised to see some familiar faces among the weather-beaten parade of characters in this decidedly un-mainstream Czech production – Udo Kier, Harvey Kietel, Julian Sands and Barry Pepper.

The story is told in episodes – if the running time is daunting, you can take advantage of the pauses and visit at your leisure. Due to the grim tone and repetition, that may be the most rewarding way of viewing this. And it truly is rewarding. Breath-taking in fact, with spectacular turns from the cast, especially Petr Kotlár as the boy, who becomes understandably affected by the relentless atrocities around him – when the ending comes, is it too late to save him? It’s well worth finding out. My score is 8 out of 10.

3 out of 3 members found this review helpful.

Stunning, essential, brutal, sad, horrifying - The Painted Bird review by AER

Spoiler Alert

The Painted Bird is a heartbreaking and gruelling movie about the death of humanity as seen and experienced by a young boy. The levels of cruelty meted out on the characters in this film are unbearably sad, you want it all to stop. All I could think about whilst watching it is how the novel (this film is based on) was inspired by witness accounts from the chaos that ensued across mainland Europe during WW2. I also thought about how any of us would manage in these circumstances where life is so cheap and dangerous. Not only does the main character have soldiers to hide from (sometimes they are depicted as the most humane / or kind to the main boy) he also finds evil in the unassuming locals. Familiar faces break the illusion sometimes, often in silent roles (is Harvey Keitel's priest dubbed?) and some of the deaths are terrible (even if the worst one occurs off-screen). Does the film end on a note of hope? Maybe not, but I read it as a moment of understanding, of an accord being reached.

One of the best WW2 movies I've seen since Son of Saul.


2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

Powerful Wartime Drama - The Painted Bird review by GI

Spoiler Alert

Set in Eastern Europe during the Second World War this is a gruelling epic about a young jewish boy's journey through a hellish world of almost unimaginable horrors in a land of suspicion, barbarism, paganistic superstition and the violence of brutal war. Joska (Petr Kotlár - in an astonishing first film performance) is a young boy who has been left by his parents with an ageing relative to avoid deportation by the Nazis. Deep in the countryside he yearns to return home despite having no idea how to get there. When his elderly aunt unexpectedly dies Joska sets off on his journey home encountering a host of characters along the way. He becomes subject to abuse and brutality as he wanders through an almost unearthly, sometimes dreamlike world. Shot in a documentary and period looking monochrome the film boasts some deep shocks and includes scenes of stark death and murder, rape and bestiality. In many ways Joska reminded me of the young Russian soldier in Sam Peckinpah's Cross Of Iron (1977) and mirrors the loss of innocence that war causes in children. It is a harrowing story and flawed by the occasional eroticism that creeps into the debased sexual scenes. Despite the horrific nature of the narrative there is a strange beauty to the film which has some superb support casting including Harvey Keitel as a kindly priest, Julian Sands as a nasty paedophile, Udo Keir as a tormented miller and Stellan Skarsgård as a German soldier. It is a long film but it draws you in almost with a bizarre fascination. Highly recommended.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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