There’s always one film that stirs up controversy on its way through the festival circuit, and last year, that film was Václav Marhoul’s ambitious “The Painted Bird.” The black-and-white foreign-language drama, finally out later this summer, is adapted from a Jerzy Kosinski novel and tells the story of a boy who travels across Eastern Europe at the end of World War II, all while witnessing (and often enduring) both the horror and beauty of his changed homeland.
The film screened at Toronto and Venice last year, where it reportedly caused walkouts throughout its screenings due to scenes of graphic violence, including one moment in which someone has their eyeballs gouged out. “The Painted Bird” was the Czech Republic’s entry for Best International Film at this year’s Oscars (where it made the official shortlist), and also won both the Bronze Frog and the Fipresci Award at the 2019 EnergaCAMERIMAGE International Film Festival.
IndieWire has the first extended look of the film, which shows both the beauty and horror that is reflective of its aims.
Per IFC Films’ official synopsis, “The Painted Bird” follows “the journey of The Boy, entrusted by his persecuted parents to an elderly foster mother. The old woman soon dies and the Boy is on his own, wandering through the countryside, from village to village, farmhouse to farmhouse. As he struggles for survival, The Boy suffers through extraordinary brutality meted out by the ignorant, superstitious peasants and he witnesses the terrifying violence of the efficient, ruthless soldiers, both Russian and German.”
“The Painted Bird” is Marhoul’s third directorial effort after “Smart Philip” and “Tobruk.” The cast includes newcomer Peter Kotlar as The Boy opposite Udo Kier, Julian Sands, Harvey Keitel, Barry Pepper, and Stellan Skarsgard. The movie’s violence and brutality may have made it controversial on the festival circuit, but Kier told IndieWire last December that the extremities in “The Painted Bird” are reflective of the WWII time period.
The film hits select theaters, drive-ins, and digital/VOD on Friday, July 17. Check out the first clip from “The Painted Bird,” available exclusively on IndieWire, below.