Katyn Review

With a thorough review written by Michael Brooke already on the site, it seems needless to completely re-examine Andrzej Wajda's 2007 film Katyn without having much to add. I found the movie to be very much in a "Best Foreign Film Nominee" sort of vein, meaning that it's well-made and palatable to the outsider while still reserving the strongest impact for a completely different audience. It follows that there's also an unavoidable tendency to manipulate the viewer to some extent. Katyn also carries some extra weight as a late work by such a celebrated filmmaker like Wajda, whose own attachment to the story could hardly be closer. The picture mostly forgoes character development in favor of showing as many types of lives affected as possible, making for the rare epic-like feature that runs two hours but would probably have withstood another hour or two's worth of further detailing of these people. What's here is never less than compelling. Indeed Katyn is well worth anyone's time considering the power of the story and the relative restraint shown by Wajda, though its importance seems to lie more with its contribution to history than cinema.

The Disc

Artificial Eye's Blu-ray of Katyn was released exclusively through HMV at the end of January. On March 22nd, it will be made available through other retail outlets. The dual-layered disc is not region locked.

Though the DVD edition Artificial Eye put out last year, and apparently all other editions of the film worldwide, presented the image in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, this Blu-ray maintains the wider ratio of 2.35:1 that was used in cinemas. Michael Brooke's earlier review speculated a little on this discrepancy, but there still seems to be a mystery as to why 1.78:1 has previously been used for every other disc. The framing itself rarely suggests an overwhelming need for 2.35:1. Less confusing is the quality of the high definition transfer, which gives the film added depth and clarity that significantly improves on the standard definition releases. Darker scenes retain an acceptable amount of detail while daylight exteriors look sufficiently muted and grey. Flesh tones appear natural and somewhat cool. I didn't notice anything to cause concern in the transfer, making it a very strong option for those interested in having the film in its theatrical aspect ratio.

A DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track provides a fairly subdued listening experience. The rear channels do their part in the mix but nothing overpowers the speakers. Even the few gunshots sound clean and precise rather than lingering with loud echoes. It's balanced quite well, with the Polish dialogue always easily heard and the orchestral score adding a fullness to the track. Volume remains consistent and strong throughout the movie. Also included is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, in Polish as well. The film has optional English subtitles, white in color, while the extra features come with non-removable ones.

The supplements are highlighted by a 2007 interview (49:34) with Wajda that was done for Polish television and explores a number of different angles to the film. Everything from the director's personal connection to the material to the political, historical, and contemporary implications are discussed in this lengthy piece. It's presented in standard definition, pillarboxed to 1.33:1. Also repeated, in quality and content, from the DVD release is a making-of featurette (27:00 ) that comes across as conventional and extremely laudatory to Wajda. It contains interviews with the director and members of the cast and crew, who all pretty much discuss the usual sorts of things we get in such a piece, only in Polish. Finally, the trailer (1:53) for Katyn is here, as are previews of other Artificial Eye titles like Waltz with Bashir, Chungking Express, Hidden and Lou Reed's Berlin.

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