The Painted Bird
$ $8,300,000
169 minutes
DCI 4K (CinemaScope)
Church Slavic; Old Slavonic; Church Slavonic; Old Bulgarian; Old Church Slavonic Czech German Russian
Jerzy Kosinski, The Painted Bird © 1965, Houghton Mifflin, New York Rights been obtained, April 2010, Spertus College of Judaica, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A - A dark masterpiece and harrowing story that follows the wanderings of a boy abandoned by his parents during World War II.

The title "The Painted Bird" is based on the once much-loved village custom in Eastern Europe, where people caught strong and healthy birds and painted their feathers with the most vibrant colours. They then released the painted bird back to nature. The flock, however, no longer accepted it due to its appearance being so different. In the end it was always pecked to death in the belief that it is an alien, a hostile foreign element in their flock. On his gruelling journey the main character feels the same as this bird, for wherever he goes he always meets mainly with contempt and cruelty stemming from fear and prejudice. The film's hero is the ten year old Boy - THE PAINTED BIRD. 1943. In the countryside somewhere in Eastern Europe a boy lives with his Aunt Martha. His daily life is evolving into something altogether drab, that is until Martha quite unexpectedly dies. The boy is suddenly orphaned. He must set off alone on a journey into the unknown towards his new fate. Thanks to his distinct differences, which is underscored by both his physical appearance, in particular his bewitching eyes, and his raven black hair and dark skin, he evokes fear in the superstitious villagers. Thus he cannot stay for long anywhere. Either of his own volition, or due to coercion, he has to travel from village to village, from place to place, sometimes literally fighting for his very life. In ten successive sequences loosely connected to one another, just as in the book, and over a period of two years, the story follows the Boy on his wanderings. Each sequence is always accompanied by another essential and completely different theme as well as a character - a person who brings a different understanding, hardship, love, prejudice or even hatred to the Boy's life. All of these people have an unforgettable and unmistakable influence on the boy. Thus, in each sequence the Boy is always quite fundamentally and differently confronted with a new experience, a new understanding and the need to make a decision. The experiences he takes on, but mainly the changes in the Boy's values, do indeed gradually manifest in his ever-increasing capabilities to survive physically, but, on the other hand, they are logically bought through the loss of what is most important in life. The ability to express empathy, love, sensitivity and humanity. So at first the Boy is taken in by Olga, who is highly appreciated by the villagers for her healing abilities, then he works as a slave for a cruel and jealous miller, he gets to know the reclusive and eccentric bird catcher Lech, he becomes a witness to the brutal death of his "wife" Ludmila, survives an encounter with the Germans in the form of the humanity displayed by a quite ordinary soldier Hans, a Catholic priest takes him into custody and tries to lead him on the path to belief and love in Jesus Christ, but after his death, caused by a serious illness, the Boy's newly acquired faith is fatally broken forever by the local parishioners. He undergoes mental and physical abuse by the intelligent, but all the more pitiless, farmer Garbose, falls in love with a girl called Labina, but even this, his new, and, as yet, undiscovered feeling, is ultimately painfully betrayed and doomed by Labina herself. The Boy then loses his faith in everyone and everything, his fate resignedly seeks a way out of the trap he has found himself in. And that path - leads in just one direction - toward conscious evil. The catharsis of the Boy's journey comes when he witnesses the Apocalypse, which just one creature on the planet is capable of. Man. A being embodied by a group of Cossacks fighting on the German side, who savagely attack a village killing all its inhabitants. The Boy is saved by a Red Army troop. Two Russian soldiers, the sniper Mitka and Gavrila the political officer, take him under their wing. It is mainly Mitka who has a fatal influence on the Boy. The Boy takes Mitka's credo of "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" quite literally. The war is ending, but in no way does that mean an end to the Boy's hardships. Together with the other "war" children, who have met a similar fate, he is located to a city, to the orphanage. In the very end of the tale it is there that he finds his father, who had also succeeded, as one of the very few Jews, to survive. However there is no literal happy end. The Boy, who so far has made it through so much suffering and pain, can no longer cope, and he also intentionally no longer wants to see a close and loving man in the person of his own father. He brazenly rejects and condemns him. Maybe his bond with his own past is severed forever. Despite this the film's finale does contain that necessary glimmer of hope. A spark, that suggests that there is always a way back, a journey from darkness to light, a path to the next round of the never-ending fight that we all endure day after day. The struggle between good and evil ... ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- and only God, omnipotent indeed, knew they were mammals of a different breed. MAYAKOVSKY