Wed Sep 4, 2019, 06:29 PM

Holocaust 'Masterpiece' Causes Uproar At Venice Film Festival

by Fiachra GIBBONS

September 4, 2019
Venice (AFP) - A searing adaptation of one of most controversial books about the Holocaust divided critics at the Venice film festival Wednesday, with some fighting each other in the dark to get out of its first screening.

"The Painted Bird", based on Jerzy Kosinski's highly contentious 1965 novel about a Jewish boy surviving the worst human nature can inflict on him in an unnamed Eastern European country, was hailed as a masterpiece by some and an unwatchable ordeal by others.

But its staggering central performance from nine-year-old Czech Roma boy Petr Kotlar -- who witnesses a panoply of depravity from incest, bestiality and rape to mutilation and murder -- has had co-stars Harvey Keitel and Stellan Skarsgard as well as the critics in raptures.

That did not stop some running for the exits at its first screening.

In the very first scene, the boy's pet ferret is taken from him by boorish peasants and burned alive.

The Hollywood Reporter called the black-and-white epic "heart-wrenching... and the ideal film treatment" of the novel, which itself sparked outrage in Kosinski's native Poland when the writer first hinted that the story was autobiographical.


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