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The Painted Bird review – gruelling descent into war’s deepest horror | Peter Bradshaw’s film of the week | Film

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Czech film-maker Václav Marhoul has created a monochrome epic of anguish set in wartime Poland: a gruelling odyssey of almost unimaginable horror, featuring – but not limited to – violence, disfigurement, bestiality and rape. This had audiences groping blindly for the exits at last year’s Venice film festival, and there can’t be many movies whose closing credits want to reassure you not only that no animals were harmed, but that adult body doubles were used for sex scenes involving children. It is surely intended to echo Elim Klimov’s harrowing war movie Come and See from 1985, whose star Alexei Kravechenko is given a cameo here as a fiercely partisan Red Army commander.

It is based on the 1965 novel and succès de scandale by the Polish-American author Jerzy Kosiński, whose later political satire Being There was famously filmed by Hal Ashby, with Peter Sellers as the gardener whose bland platitudes are mistaken for visionary insights. The Painted Bird is the story of a young Jewish boy in occupied Poland who becomes a survivor-refugee when his parents are taken away to the concentration camps, but who is to find paranoid resentment and antisemitism wherever he goes and is the intimate witness to violence and the degradation of the nation’s soul.

Kosiński was himself a kind of itinerant Jewish orphan in Polish Catholic households after the Nazis arrived (much like his friend Roman Polanski) although he appears to have been relatively well treated by people in Poland who were outraged at the sneaky and sensational implication that all this was closely based on fact.

Petr Kotlár plays a young Jewish boy who remains mute throughout the film and only reveals his name by painting it on a train window’s condensation at the very end. The elderly woman with whom he is billeted dies and the boy runs away, at first bought as a virtual slave by a healer who considers that this boy must be a “vampire” and therefore of some supernatural assistance to her. The boy runs away from her and everyone else and is to find non-hospitality with all the other gargoyles, including a crazed miller, played – worryingly – by Udo Kier. He is shown some kindness by a German soldier (Stellan Skarsgård) and by a Soviet Red Army officer (Barry Pepper) and also by a kindly, naive priest, played by Harvey Keitel, who allows him to become an altar boy, but is persuaded by a certain shifty parishioner and distiller of illicit hooch, played by Julian Sands, to let him foster the child at his home – and this man is a paedophile. Later, the boy will be abused by a woman, too (Julia Valentova).

Harvey Keitel as a kindly, naive priest in The Painted Bird.



Harvey Keitel as a kindly, naive priest in The Painted Bird. Photograph: IFC Films/AP

The title comes from an experiment shown to the boy by one of his antisemitic jailer-hosts – a man who traps and sells songbirds. He paints the feathers of one bird white, releases it and they watch as all the other birds turn on it and attack with Hitchcockian malice, until the painted bird drops dead from the sky: this is what happens to minorities like Jews. In some ways, the boy himself is a lightning rod for all the fear and rage and shock convulsing Poland after the invasion. They will not forgive his suffering, his loneliness, his vulnerability; they resent his tacit demand for charity from them, and it takes little to convert their unease into bigotry and spite. The boy really does bring the “bad luck” that Kier’s sinister miller fears: he is a Typhoid Mary of bad luck, or rather he brings out the curse that was already there.

Using a child to present the horror reminded me a little of Grass’s The Tin Drum. It’s a way of foregrounding the nightmare and the shock with absolute immediacy; the child gives the film-maker licence to astonish and stun. A child’s eyes appear to give you unmediated access to an unvarnished, grisly truth that has not yet been explained – or condemned – by adult minds. But in another way, I have to admit to being unsure about the way that the violence and the horror are almost eroticised. The Painted Bird is a brutal kind of ordeal, but eerie, unearthly and even beautiful sometimes: a bad dream that leaks into waking reality.

The Painted Bird is in cinemas and on digital platforms.

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Rewrite "Harry Potter" To Find About Which Combination Of Two Houses You Are

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Are you a Slytherpuff or a Gryffinclaw?


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Pride And Prejudice Cast Then Vs Now

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I love this cast most ardently.

Today is a very important day, y’all. It’s the 15th anniversary of the Pride & Prejudice movie! That’s right, we’ve all been simping over that hand flex scene for a decade and a half now. Isn’t that wild??

Are you curious what the original cast is doing all these years later? Well, I did some good ole ~social media stalking~ so you don’t have to. Here’s what they’re up to:

1.

Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet


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Now: Keira is still, of course, the queen of period pieces and pirate movies. She went on to star in The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Anna Karenina, and Colette.

2.

Matthew Macfadyen as Mr. Darcy


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Now: Matthew went on to star in Anna Karenina with his Pride and Prejudice co-star Keira as well as the TV mini-series Quiz. He currently plays Tom Wambsgans on Succession.

3.

Rosamund Pike as Jane Bennet


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Now: Rosamund went on to play Amy Dunne in Gone Girl and has done a lot of voice acting in children’s shows like Moominvalley and Archibald’s Next Big Thing. She’s currently set to executive produce the Three-Body Problem TV series for Netflix alongside Rian Johnson.

4.

Simon Woods as Mr. Bingley


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Now: Simon did not continue acting for long after Pride and Prejudice. He played Octavian in Rome from 2005 to 2007, but stopped acting a year later. He went on to marry Burberry president and chief creative officer Christopher Bailey in 2012.

5.

Jena Malone as Lydia Bennet


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Now: You might recognize Jena from her recent roles of Johanna Mason from the Hunger Games movies, Hope Harlingen in Inherent Vice, or Sage Ross in Nocturnal Animals. She was also the singer/songwriter for the band The Shoe, though they haven’t released new music since 2015.

6.

Carey Mulligan as Kitty Bennet


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Now: Carey is all grown up now, and still acting. You might recognize her as Daisy Buchanan from The Great Gatsby movie, Jeanette Brinson from Wildlife, and Sunny on the TV show The Walker.

7.

Talulah Riley as Mary Bennet


Focus Features / Getty Images / Mike Marsland / Contributor

Now: Talulah is still acting, and is best known for her ow-four-year run as Angela on Westworld. She also married Tesla CEO Elon Musk in 2010, got divorced, and remarried him again in 2013. The couple got divorced a second and final time in 2016.

8.

Brenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennet


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Now: Brenda is still acting, most notably for her now nine-year run as DCI Vera Stanhope on the TV show Vera. She is currently playing Kate in Kate & Koji.

9.

Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet


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Now: Donald has kept very busy since 2005, appering in tons of shows and movies such as in The Hunger Games series as President Snow and Ad Astra as Thomas Pruitt. Most recently, he played Franklin Reinhardt in the TV mini-series The Undoing.

10.

Rupert Friend as Mr. Wickham


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Now: Rupert is an actor, producer, screenwriter, and director, most known for his role of Peter Quinn in Homeland. He also went on to appear in A Simple Favor, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and Strange Angel.

11.

Kelly Reilly as Caroline Bingley


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Now: Kelly is still acting, most recently in TV series like True Detective, Black Box, and Britannia. She currently stars in Yellowstone as Beth Dutton.

12.

Tom Hollander as Mr. Collins


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Now: Tom went on to appear in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End alongside Keira, as well as independently in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Bird Box. He’s also done quite a bit of voice acting for shows like Family Guy, American Dad!, and Harley Quinn.

13.

Claudie Blakley as Charlotte Lucas


Focus Features / Getty Images / Eamonn M. McCormack / Stringer

Now: Claudie is still acting, having appeared in many TV series over the years such as Grantchester, Manhunt, and, currently, Flesh and Blood. She’s best known for her run as Emma Timmins in BBC’s TV show Lark Rise to Candleford, which she appeared on for four years.

14.

Judi Dench as Lady Catherine de Bourgh


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Now: Dame Judi Dench’s filmography since the movie’s release in 2005 is extensive, including everything from action movies like Skyfall, period pieces like Jane Eyre, and musicals like the Cats movie. Most recently, she starred in Six Minutes to Midnight as Miss Rocholl, which is set to come out next year.

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How Well Do You Know Disney Castles?

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Castle me outside, how bow dah’?


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