When it comes to films about the Holocaust, I think it’s fair to say you can probably expect some level of horror given the heinous atrocities that took place.
However, it seems as though The Painted Bird has taken it to the next level, earning itself the title of the Venice Film Festival’s most controversial film of the year.
The film, which stars Harvey Keitel, Stellan Skarsgård and Udo Kier, prompted walkouts from horrified viewers over graphic scenes of violence, sexual assault, mutilation and bestiality, according to Xan Brooks, a reviewer for The Guardian.
Watch the full trailer below:
It follows a Jewish boy who is left in the care of an elderly woman by his parents during World War II, however when the woman dies, the unnamed child is left to wander from village to village, where he comes across a number of less than savoury characters.
One of the scenes, Brooks writes, depicts a man gouging out the eyes of a teenage boy, followed by another character who faced a gory and violent death, prompting people to leave the screening.
In his review, Brooks wrote:
One day, they’ll make a film about the first public screening of The Painted Bird.
It will feature the man who fell full-length on the steps in his effort to escape and the well-dressed woman who became so frantic to get out that she hit the stranger in the next seat.
The centerpiece will be the moment 12 viewers broke for the doors only to discover that the exit had been locked.
The Financial Times (£) also claimed the controversial film ‘prompted mass walkouts even among the battle-hardened critics paid to sit through anything.’
One film reviewer, who incidentally made it through to the end, wrote on Twitter:
Václav Marhoul’s #ThePaintedBird is a brutal, harrowing & merciless 3 hour journey. Filled with gruesome acts varying from extreme beatings, brutal rape scenes and eye gouging. Yep, THERE WERE WALKOUTS! Great directing & superb black & white 35mm cinematography. #Venezia76.
Harvey Keitel is as far away from his jolly car insurance adverts as imaginable in holocaust metaphor pic #thepaintedbird. The largest number of walkouts I’ve witnessed this year. Certain to attain MASSIVE notoriety yet also likely to win the main prize. #Venezia76
— Greg Wetherall (@GregWetherall) September 3, 2019
Harvey Keitel is as far away from his jolly car insurance adverts as imaginable in holocaust metaphor pic #thepaintedbird. The largest number of walkouts I’ve witnessed this year. Certain to attain MASSIVE notoriety yet also likely to win the main prize. #Venezia76.
The film is based on the 1965 novel of the same name by Jerzy Kosinski, who originally claimed the book to be autobiographical, however this was later proved not to be the case.
It’s not known when the film will be out for public release, but if you fancy giving it a go, you’ve been warned.
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Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining the LADbible Group team in 2017.