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

Jacob Stolworthy
IFC Films

Ever since its festival debut in 2019, The Painted Bird has been called one of the most brutal Second World War films of all time.

Those who have read the source material won’t be surprised – Jerzy Kosiński’s novel of the same name 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 doesn’t shy away from the horrors featured in Kosiński’s pages.

The Guardians Xan Brooks called it a “savage three-hour tour of hell”, writing: “This is a monumental piece of work and one I’m deeply glad to have seen. I can also say that I hope to never cross its path again.”

According to those who were present, the film was so shocking that more than half of its audience walked out midway through when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival last September.

The black-and-white film stars, among others, Stellan Skarsgård, Harvey Keitel and Udo Kier, was set to be released in the UK on 27 March, but has been delayed indefinitely because of coronavirus.

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.

Meanwhile, Netflix has just released what is being called its most harrowing series yet – a true-crime documentary on the trials investigating the murder of eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez.