The Painted Bird is not a horror movie, but the horrors in it are very disturbing. The movie is based on a novel by Jerzy Kosinski. Despite claims that the author’s stories are fabricated, the book remains his legacy.
The Painted Bird is a series of events wherein a boy (Petr Kotlár) is subjected to the different atrocities of war and the malevolence of random people. In the opening scene, the boy is tackled by a couple of kids. They take his pet and burns it alive in front of him. The boy doesn’t say a word.
It gets monotonously worse from there. He’s on an indeterminate path towards home, surviving one horrible situation to the next. Each time, he ends up as a servant to a cruel and violent adult.
Even when he meets a well-meaning priest, he’s eventually handed over to a pedophile who rapes him repeatedly. He’s also nearly pecked to death, gets molested by a woman, and beaten up by villagers. The least horrible thing that happens to this boy is getting tossed into a pit of human shit from a latrine.
When he’s not being subjected to cruelty, he witnesses them. In one scene, a mother kicks in a bottle that she has forcibly inserted in the vagina of a wild woman, who was caught having sex with her son.
Much of the violence that takes place has a symbolic nature, so it’s not entirely crude. When you Google this movie, you’ll find out that a miller gouges the eyes of a man with a spoon for looking at his wife.
All of this is captured in exquisite black and white cinematography. The sunlight is cold. The night is cavernous. The faces are all stony and ragged.
And what’s the point in all this? nothing. The Painted Bird has no context and cause. There is no sense of location and direction. It doesn’t matter where the boy is and who he encounters. Every place has monsters. The only mercy he gets is from a conscience-stricken Nazi officer.
In the end, the boy’s final fate doesn’t matter. He’s far too much traumatized that he too, is a monster.
It’s important for everyone to remember the dark chapters in our history. But what do they serve if there is no insight to be learned? The Painted Bird doesn’t examine its hellscape and the systems that create its monsters. It simply wallows in violence.
The Painted Bird
The Painted Bird is a handsomely shot harrowing showcase of holocaust horrors that only exists to tell you that cruelty is random and infinite.