Monday, April 23, 2012

Katyn - The Controversial story of a Massacre

This is a not a movie review.
It is my reflection of the contents of a movie and the real incidents linked to it.

The movie I am talking about is Katyn, a polish one released in 2007.
A movie poster

About the movie
The movie revolves around the massacre of nearly 20 thousand Polish officers and civilians in 1940 in the Katyn forest. The exact numbers are still not clear.

Unlike other movies I have seen which deal with similar topics, this one sticks to the lives of individual soldiers and their families who went through the ordeal. Though the story seems quite a bit like that of the Holocaust, it has various factors which make it different.

The very opening scene of the movie is as follows and sets the entire movie in perspective.

A large crowd of Polish civilians people rushing onto a bridge crying out loud that the Germans are behind them, as depicted in most of the European movies based on the themes of the holocaust or German occupation. They are met from the other side by another smaller group of Polish civilians calling out loudly that the Soviets have attacked Poland. The rest of the movie is all about the story of a nation caught between two aggressors whose fluctuating diplomatic stances only worsened the plight of it.

Many a brave Polish officers are depicted as choosing the captivity of the Russians as a symbol of loyalty to their duties. Later on these officers are deported to Russian camps. The story moves on with the struggle of their families to survive in a Poland divided between Nazi Germany and Communist Russia. The story unfolds like a political conspiracy. Beaten on from both sides, the people hang in by threads of hope for the return of their loved ones(as it is promised by officials from time-to-time).
The officers in the prison camp

What follows is what is called the Katyn list which is read out in public in the German side. The list is of the names of officers who were 'executed by the Bolsheviks', accompanied by official news reels and visuals of German priests praying on the mass graves. Many grieve while some hold onto hopes as they didn't hear the names of their loved ones in the dreaded list.

After the war ends, Poland falls to the Russian rule, and the Katyn massacre becomes a hot topic. The Russians blame the Nazis for the massacre and display evidences for the same. People who knew otherwise, and tried to talk about it in public are 'taken care of' immediately by the NKVD(now known as KGB)

The movie touches upon various characters who are somehow related to the Katyn incident and how they try to cope up with hard Russian regime. Movie ends with the revelations from the diary of a captain which was maintained till the last minutes before he disembarks from the prison train carrying them to the execution spot. The systematic and brutal killings are shot to evoke an outcry and a question about the sanity of the political world.

Overall a brilliant  movie, w.r.t the technicalities as well as the handling of the content. No loud statements or vile propaganda against any of the aggressors, but just a silent note against one of the atrocious incidents of recent past that shook the morality of the world.

A gruesome image of the massacre

The IMDB page gives a lot of info about the movie itself. The movie won various awards and was nominated for many more.

About the incident
Here is what Wikipedia has to say about this incident. It reveals the kind of foolery played by the Western powers against this incident in the post war era to appease their new found Soviet allies. The entire incident was strongly rejected by Russian until 1990 and in 2010, an official explanation blaming Stalin was given by the State Duma. What a pity.

All said and done, nothing will resurrect the dead. But all such incidents must help us look at ourselves and think whether knowingly or unknowingly we are accomplices to such atrocities in our times. The moral sanity of mankind is at present on a tipping point where intolerance is the way of the world. So beware, fear first the one within you, for that one might be the first to betray you to the vileness.