Today at the Chicago International Film Festival: A boy survives the unspeakable in ‘The Painted Bird’
Adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s World War II novel follows the child’s growth as he witnesses and endures horrors over a year and a half.
Monstrous inhumanity and ageless impulses to annihilate others — from other faiths, ideologies and even species — is the world of A Boy, as Jerzy Kosinski identifies the Jewish character in “The Painted Bird” his 1965 novel set in World War II.
The 169-minute film adaptation, an odyssey in nine chapters, observes a nameless mute as he survives the unspeakable in an unnamed European country. Shot in sequence, “The Painted Bird” stars Roma first-timer Petr Kotlar growing in stature, literally and figuratively, over a year and half.
Producer-writer-director Václav Marhoul spent nearly two years negotiating rights from Chicago’s Spertus Institute, where Kosinski bequeathed his literary estate upon his 1991 suicide.
Before Wednesday night’s screening, Marhoul shared how the author had denied his close friend Warren Beatty screen rights but imagined Luis Bunuel or Federico Fellini could adapt “The Painted Bird.” Marhoul says of Kosinski: “His soul… was definitely, absolutely lost.” Boy finds his way and finally his name.
“The Painted Bird” screens again at 5:15 p.m. Thursday at AMC River East, 322 E. Illinois. Also at the fest today:
• ‘A Girl Missing’ (Japan/France) Writer-director Kôji Fukada tracks the gradual derangement of Ichiko (Mariko Tsutsui), a home-service nurse whose nephew kidnaps the title character, a granddaughter of an aged painter under Ichiko’s care. The missing girl’s older sister lusts after Ichiko then lashes out, smearing her through the tabloids. That ends Ichiko’s engagement. Retaliation takes stranger and stranger turns. Changes in hair color cue dream-like delusions. We enter Ichiko’s headspace in this unsettling psychodrama. In one reality or another she goes to a dog park on all fours and barks. 6 p.m. Oct. 24
• ‘Corpus Christi’ (Poland/France) Paroled from a brutalizing youth prison, Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) is a withdrawn 20-year-old sent to work in a lumber mill in a small town. He steps off the bus just when the local parish awaits a substitute priest. The unconventionally pious impersonator ends up helping locals recently traumatized by a seven-fatality accident. Daniel is an all-around agent of change. Director Jan Komasa and screenwriter Mateusz Pacewicz base their plot on news accounts of an actual case of an out-of-town improviser who lead a flock for three months. This thought-provoking drama asks how legit churches in fact work for worshippers, or fail them. 8:45 p.m. Oct. 24; 12 p.m. Oct. 25
Bill Stamets is a Chicago freelance writer.