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Stars: Maya Ostaszewska, Artur Zmijewski, Andrzej Chyra, Danuta Stenka, Jan Englert, Magdalena Cielecka, Pawel Malaszynski, Agnieszka Glinska, Maja Komorowska, Wladyslaw Kowalski, Sergei Garmash, Antoni Pawlicki, Agnieszka Kawiorska

Director: Andrzej Wajda

82-year-old Andrzej Wajda shows no sign of losing any of the filmmaking genius that has rightly made him Poland’s greatest filmmaker with such classics as A Generation, Kanal and Ashes and Diamonds. Katyn, a powerful, deeply moving and timely dramatisation of the infamous real-life murder of some 15,000 Polish officers by the Russians in 1940, is as impressive as any of his movies, won Best Film, Best Cinematography and Best Music award as the European Film Academy and was deservedly nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2008 Academy Awards.

The screenplay, co-written by Wajda and based on the novel ‘Post Mortem’ by Andrsej Mularczyk, initially centres on Ostaszewska who waits in vain for the return of her officer husband Zmijewski before finally learning of his incarceration in an internment camp by the invading Russians who marched into Poland after the Nazis invaded in 1939.

Wajda, who was only 14 when his own father was murdered at Katyn, has made a commanding drama which, nearly 70 years after the terrible events it portrays, still hits hard without any need to resort to Hollywood-style melodramatics. His use of actuality footage is perfectly placed and vividly underlines the horrors of the subject, Krzysztof Penderecki's elegaic musical score makes a telling counterpoint to the imagery, the acting throughout is impeccable and the film is a magnificent work by a director at the height of his powers.

Alan Frank

Poland 2007. UK Distributor: Artificial Eye. Colour.
118 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 29 Jun 2009