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Review: Katyn

By GERALD PEARY  |  May 27, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

VIDEO: The trailer for Katyn

Andrzej Wajda was Poland's most revered filmmaker during the long Communist era (Kanal, Ashes and Diamonds); he even managed several films (Man of Marble, Man of Iron) critical of the Marxist regime. But only in 2007, years after the fall of Communism, did he take on one of the most odious, devious cover-ups of Socialist Poland when it was under the thumb of the USSR.

Katyn, a 2008 Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film, is Wajda's brave, shocking retelling of what happened in 1940 in Russia's Katyn forest. There, 22,000 Polish military officers who were being held in Russian prisons were massacred by Stalin's army and buried in anonymous graves. After the war, Soviet Russia and Poland gave out the year of the brutal murders as 1941 and blamed the massacre on the invading Nazis.

What Wajda gives us here is a large-cast fictional retelling of what actually happened both in Russia and back home in Poland. If Wajda's narrative is confusing at times, you can forgive that once you reach the chilling re-creation of the Katyn killing fields, which he withholds until the very end.

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