(aka 'Post mortem. Opowiesc katynska')

Directed by Andrzej Wajda
Poland 2007

 

1940. After Germany's invasion of Poland, Joseph Stalin ordered the liquidation of the Polish officer corps, slaughtering nearly 22,000 men in Katyn Forest. Based on this horrific, historical event, Katyn tells the story of four fictional officers and their families as they struggle to uncover the truth. Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and directed by Academy Award Winner Andrzej Wajda.

***

In 1940, some 15,000 officers of the Polish army were rounded up, transported in sealed buses to a forest named Katyn, shot in the back of their heads by the Russian KGB and buried in mass graves. That is the simple truth. When the nation was occupied by both the Nazis and Soviets, their deaths were masked in silence. Then the Nazis dug up the graves and blamed the deaths on the Soviets. After the defeat of Hitler and the Soviet occupation of Poland, history was rewritten and the official version blamed the massacre on the Nazis.

One of the officers murdered that day was Jakub Wajda, whose son Andrzej would become a leading Polish film director, and one of the chroniclers of the Solidarity movement. Now 82, Andrzej has evoked what happened that day and how it infected Polish society for 50 years. Reflect that everyone in Poland knew the truth of the massacre, but to lie about it became an official requirement under the Soviet-controlled regime. Thus, in some cases, to gain immunity or advancement in postwar Poland required parents and children, brothers and sisters of the dead to remain silent about their fates.

Excerpt from Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times located HERE

Poster

Theatrical Release: September 17th, 2007

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DVD Review: Koch Lorber Films - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution Koch Lorber Films - Region 0 - NTSC
Runtime 2:01:44 
Video 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.24 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s  

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0), English (Dolby Digital 5.1) 
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Koch Lorber Films

Aspect Ratio:
Aspect Ratio 1.78:1

Edition Details:

• Trailer (2:31)
• Interview with director Andrzej Wajda (49:30)
• Making of Katyn: 60 Days of Shooting (26:58)

DVD Release Date: August 11th, 2009

Keep Case
Chapters: 14

 

Comments:

This film is another Wajda masterpiece but I don't believe the Koch-Lorber DVD transfer is respecting the film to it's utmost abilities. Firstly, this transfer is not in the correct theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The 1.78 framing has cropped the original image on both side edges. Secondly, the transfer is interlaced (see last large capture for visible combing). It appears to have the correct NTSC running time - so I don't believe it is from an unconverted PAL source. Still, this is disappointing.

Other than those two glaring weaknesses - the dual-layered DVD looks decent if never stellar and has a mediocre bitrate. This is a powerful film that should have reached Blu-ray and I'll wager it would have looked very strong in 1080P resolution (NOTE: Flemming has told me it IS available in Blu-ray with English subtitles from a Polish website HERE - thanks Femming!). It is reviewed, in Danish, HERE. This DVD has a greenish haze and there are compression artifacts as well and Pawel Edelman's cinematography is never given an opportunity to shine to its capabilities. Not everything was meant to fill the standard HD TV screen. 

The audio is an unremarkable 2.0 channel or a more dynamic 5.1 - both in original Polish with optional English subtitles and mandatory Polish subs ones for the German dialogue. The latter appear at the bottom of the frame and push the English subs to the top (see sample below). Krzysztof Penderecki's score especially seems to shine more in the surround offering.

Extras are somewhat redeeming with a wonderful 50-minute Interview with director Andrzej Wajda in Polish, and full screen, with forced English subtitles. He discusses the making of with historical accuracies being of a prime concern. There is also a Making of Katyn: 60 Days of Shooting which is close to 1/2 hour with lots of behind-the-scenes sequences. There is also a theatrical trailer running 2.5 minutes in letterbox widescreen. These extras are very much appreciated.

I read somewhere that this was one of the most expensive Polish films ever made and Wajda must still be considered one of the world's greatest living director's (83 years young in 2009) - however, we are once again subject to the weaknesses of an improper transfer. I could probably live with the aspect ratio, if they would at least improve the SD image with a progressive transfer - it's 2009! This is a wonderfully relevant film but we reject this Koch Lorber DVD. Here's hoping that an Artificial Eye offering HERE, coming out in October 2009, will be a progressive transfer in the theatrical widescreen AR.

Gary W. Tooze

 



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Subtitle Sample

 

Non-removable Polish subtitles for German dialogue

 

 


 

Screen Captures

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 

 


 

 


Combing visible from interlaced transfer
 

 


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Distribution Koch Lorber Films - Region 0 - NTSC




 

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