The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
Sometimes luck doesn’t follow you, and in Václav Marhoul’s The Painted Bird, you’ll find very little luck. Based on the novel of the same name by Jerzy Kosiński, you’ll follow a young boy as he endures the tragic and terrifying world of Europe during WWII. Full disclosure: if you aren’t ready for some heavy and harsh visuals due to how mentally draining 2020 has been, this might not be your movie.
The Painted Bird doesn’t waste time in introducing you to how messed up the world in this film is. Immediately you’re introduced to a Jewish boy running from other younger boys who eventually catch him and light the animal he was trying to protect on fire. From there begins an over two and half hour journey, full of failures and very little wins. I’d be lying if I said this movie didn’t wear me down. This film comes in with the intent to make you feel every bit of discomfort that it can, and you will feel it. Innocent people being gunned down? Yes. An older woman sleeping with a bunch of young boys only to have retaliation? Yes. I can go on and on, but this world is full of making you feel terrible, and you push through it, just like the boy.
The plot is relatively bare bones, but it’s more about what you’re going through versus where you’re going to. You follow a young boy as he transverses through multiple villages, people, and situations that would make any one else crumble. The story sort of follows in a vignette fashion where it feels like you have a lot of short stories inside a wider world. Marhoul paces this out so that you’re not quite in the same set piece or with the same characters for too long, which with a runtime of 170 minutes, a mostly silent cast and score, and a black and white film style, is astonishing to accomplish something that didn’t drag on as much as some may think.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
We follow a singular character through the course of the movie, Petr Kotlár as the boy, Joska. Not to be mean, but there’s plenty of movies where the child actors may not quite hit the bar we’re always expecting. Kotlár, however, does an absolutely amazing job through the whole movie. The range of emotion he can display from being in a scene where he’s being beaten down by a large group of people, to where he’s having to shine shoes for his life, he shows his full talent in The Painted Bird.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
"A Lot Of Scenes Were Harsh, And Hope Was Few And Far Between..."
Wildly enough, there’s a lot of violence in this movie. I mean, it is WWII. We see people beaten, dismembered, and animals killed, so naturally there’s a lot of work that’s done to the special effects on that as well. The black and white aesthetic that The Painted Bird has embellishes the blood and gore. On the flip side, being a movie set in WWII, the setting, housing, and clothing all match and work to create a very immersive film.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The film mostly remains musicless; only a couple instances does it ramp up with something in the background. For what it does, it works, however I do think a soft ambient track in the background would’ve made for an easier watch overall. Maybe that’s against what the film is trying to do, but still, I think a better flow for the movie is better in the long run.
The Painted Bird isn’t a film I necessarily wanted to sit through the entire time. A lot of scenes were harsh, and hope was few and far between because I knew any decent moment would end soon after. Still, even at his lowest, you root for the boy and want him to get through it all. The film accomplishes what it sets out to do, and while it drained me, I’m extremely impressed at the outcome.