The Painted Bird released: The ‘savage’ Second World War drama that prompted mass festival walkouts

 (IFC Films)
(IFC Films)

A controversial film that’s been branded one of the most brutal Second World War films of all time has been released for all to see.

Ever since its festival debut in 2019, The Painted Bird has been both praised and criticised for refusing to shy away from the horrors featured in Jerzy Kosiński’s source material.

Those who have read the novel won’t be surprised – it shows the war through the eyes of a young boy, who witnesses depravity in the form of incest, bestiality and rape.

Going by the reviews of Václav Marhoul’s adaptation, the Czech film is a “savage three-hour tour of hell”, with critic Xan Brooks even stating he hopes to "never cross its path again.”

The Independent called it “a circus of the grotesque without cause or direction”.

According to those who were present at The Painted Bird’s Venice Film Festival premiere in September 2019, it was so shocking that more than half of its audience walked out midway through.

The black-and-white film stars, among others, Stellan Skarsgård, Harvey Keitel and Udo Kier, and was set to be released in the UK on 27 March.

It was delayed until September because of Covid-19.

Film festivals have a long history of cinema walkouts. The most recently occurred at Berlinale 2020 during a screening of Trouble with Being Born, which depicts a sexualised relationship between an adult man and an android that looks like a 10-year-old girl.

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