In 1940, thousands of Polish officers were taken into the Katyn forest and executed by Soviet soldiers, though to this day the party responsible is disputed. This serves as the backdrop for the Polish war drama Katyn, which looks at some of the lives affected by the massacre. The movie was nominated for an Oscar.
Much of the movie is set in post-WWII Poland, through the eyes of the women left behind. Details of the massacre are still sketchy at best, though lists of the men who were killed have emerged. One woman and mother, Anna (Maja Ostaszewska), has yet to see her husband's name listed and she's holding out hope that he may still be alive, even though it's been years since she's seen him.
Katyn has strong acting and a well-written screenplay, though the movie itself is surprisingly muted in power and emotion. Ostaszewska turns in a fine performance, as do the other cast members, but director Andrzej Wajda presents a scattered story that lacks the emotional weight I was expecting. The most breathtaking moments come at the very end, when the massacre is actually depicted, but Wajda needed to capture such a mood much earlier.
The biggest problem with Katyn is that it spans a several year period, resulting in a lack of focus. There's a story around a Soviet soldier offering Anna a marriage proposal so that she and her child will be protected, and another about a young man who finds love (but who just as abruptly gets shot to death). There's the story of Anna's husband, who, as one might expect, ultimately meets a not-so-nice fate.
As is, Katyn has its moments, but I struggled to really get into the story. For a WWII drama about the execution of over 20,000 Polish officers, I expected much, much more.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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