Biography / Drama / War

IMDb Rating 7.5 10 973


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April 3, 2019



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118 min
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23.976 fps
118 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Claudio Carvalho 8 / 10 / 10

Touching and Heartbreaking

In Warsaw, Doctor Henryk Goldszmit a.k.a. Janusz Korczak (Wojciech Pszoniak) runs an orphanage with a great dedication and love for the orphans. After the invasion of Poland by the German army, his orphanage moves to the Warsaw ghetto with two hundred children. Dr. Korczak asks for food and money from the wealthy Jews and tells that his dignity is the two hundred children he needs to feed. When the ghetto is displaced to Treblinka by train, Dr. Korczak refuses a Swiss passport and embarks in the train with his beloved children. "Korczak" is a touching and heartbreaking film about a man that dedicated his life to raise a group of Jewish orphans in the invaded Poland. The biography of this man is impressive, and his self-sacrifice to stay with the children in their final journey is amazing. Andrzej Wajda uses black and white to disclose this dark moment of mankind history and his style seems to have inspired Steven Spielberg in his "Schindler's List' three years later. The sad fate of Dr. Korczak and his 200 children is symbolic and very beautiful. This film was released on VHS in Brazil by FJ Lucas Distributor. My vote is eight. Title (Brazil): "As 200 Crianças do Dr. Korczak" ("The 200 Children of the Dr. Korczak")

Reviewed by RMOba 9 / 10 / 10

Childhood in the face death {possible spoiler}

This was Wajda's first movie after the election defeat of the Communists in Poland and deals with many aspects of human relationships in repressive times: kissing up to authority to make things better for others, resistance versus principled non-violence, blackmarketeering, trying to pass a member of an elite group, benefiting from others' bad luck, sacrificing friends for self-interest. The film is almost too burdened by looking at so much. In spite of this, it really remains focused on how Korczak can provide precious childhood to his orphans in the Jewish Ghetto. He is fiercely protective and uncompromisingly humane in giving his children space to grow and find comfort. Unlike "Life is Beautiful" he acknowledges his children will have to face death (at least of those close to them) and prepares them with the emotional tools to deal with it. He demands a children's hospice ward so that no Ghetto child would die without dignity alone on the street. Any hand-holding in bright light can only be metaphor for the spiritual leadership. Indeed the bedtime tucking rituals, and the occasional giving up his bed to his most troubled charges is the strongest symbol of the childhood comforts he tries to give them. Wojciech Pszoniak (Korczak) reminds me of Robin Williams as Oliver Sacks in Awakenings. He is so serious about those in his care, while at the same time able to provide them with good humor as needed. He is also a bit of a social misfit. Like Szpilman, Korczak is so well loved and respected by all Poles (and even some Germans), he seems to have been chosen by them to survive. Korczak's fate mirrors the Pianist in the sense that Szpilman is aloof and his existence becomes more and more isolated as people help him survive. But because Korczak is so engaged, and so devoted to his children, his fate becomes more and more wedded to theirs. Polanski is definitely more cinematic, but I think Wajda is more humanistic, especially from a script by Holland. In any event, the Poles cinematic treatment Holocaust is for me the most relevant, honest, and moving.

Reviewed by bensonj 9 / 10 / 10

Another Great Wajda Film

Once again Wajda returns to the war. Here, the Nazi-era ghetto is shown as a place of greater variety of experience than typically depicted. As Nazis film the street scenes we've grown accustomed to seeing, the hero of this film is able to run an orphanage with some semblance of normality, others are poor but not starving, and some Jews even live high on the hog trading with the guards. In fact, the studio-recreated scenes of ghetto death and poverty in the streets seemed cleaner, more airbrushed, than the ordinary town streets in Wajda's 35-year earlier A GENERATION (which was on the same bill when I saw this). But this is not a major criticism. Scriptwriter Agnieszka Holland's purpose isn't merely to retell Nazi horrors; her subject is how a moral force meets and responds to the holocaust. In his ghetto orphanage the director walls his children in to shield them. While he does business with the devil outside to keep them fed, inside the children care for each other, keep discipline with their own court of justice tempered with mercy, and put on classic plays (one dealing with death so the children will understand and not fear it). Wealthy, well-meaning gentiles outside the ghetto try to save the doctor, but he won't consider it. Finally, inevitably, the children are put in a railway car to the ovens. The whole point and power of the film is that this man's will has kept his children's humanity intact. When the end comes we feel their death in a personal way that few films on the subject have. Pszoniak plays Korczak (who is based on a real person) with great strength. Korczak's insistence on not accepting the Nazi status quo sometimes works, often doesn't even achieve short term ends, but is the only moral stand to be taken. The end, a fantasy shot of the children and the doctor running from the cattle car into a field of light, is somewhat controversial. It would, in another film, seem a poetic cop-out. Here, it works because even as the image plays out on the screen, your mind sees their real end that the rest of the film has prepared you for. One can't help but feel that Spielberg was influenced by this film when he made SCHINDLER'S LIST, a film that's perhaps visually more flashy than KORCZAK, but which doesn't have KORCZAK's clear moral purpose at its core. Wajda is given "special thanks" in the screen credits of the Spielberg film.

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