- “The Painted Bird” made its premiere at the Venice film festival earlier this week, and its controversial subject matter caused massive walkouts in the audience.
- The film focuses on an abused young Jewish boy who witnesses extreme depravity – such as bestiality, incest, rape, and torture – while trying to flee the Holocaust.
- While most critics seemed to agree that the film wasn’t an easy watch, many praised the actors and filmmakers for undertaking such a bold, meaningful project.
- Others felt that the film was excessive in its violence and sexual acts.
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A controversial new film is causing critics to walk out of screenings due to its brutal depictions of rape, bestiality, incest, and torture.
“The Painted Bird,” which focuses on an abused young Jewish boy trying to flee the Holocaust, premiered at the Venice film festival earlier this week, and prompted massive walkouts during certain parts of the film.
According to the Daily Mail, there were several scenes that caused critics at the Venice screening to exit the theatre.
The first involves a jealous miller whom the boy encounters after he’s pushed into a river and carried downstream. Distraught at the attention his wife pays a younger man, the miller uses a spoon to gauge out the man’s eyeballs, which he then feeds to the cats.
Another walkout occurred when the boy is seduced by a nymphomaniac, who then takes out her sexual frustrations by having sex with a goat.
And the final exit was spurred by a scene of Russian Cossacks brutally invading and massacring an entire village, according to the Daily Mail.
An article from the Guardian described the apparent pandemonium in the theatre during the screening.
A critic for the Guardian wrote about the audience’s reactions to the Venice screening. One man “fell full-length on the steps in his effort to escape” while another woman “became so frantic to get out that she hit the stranger in the next seat,” critic Xan Brooks wrote.
The “centrepiece” of the audience walkouts was “the moment [when] 12 viewers broke for the doors only to discover that the exit had been locked,” Brooks said.
He went on to give the film an overall positive review.
Critics shared reactions to the film on Twitter.
Pretty much everyone agreed that the film wasn’t for the faint-hearted, but many thought that the film was overall worth a watch, due to its powerful message about tolerance and violence.
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 pic.twitter.com/E4RMi7pCLK
— International Film Critique (@IntFilmCritique) September 3, 2019
And after the bottle scene some people had enough and started leaving. #ThePaintedBird is not for the faint hearted, just like Jerzy Kłosiński’s novel. It surely is a traumatic film abut generations’ trauma. But it’s beautiful in very twisted way #Venezia76 pic.twitter.com/WnDgDsWhvI
— Radek Folta (@rdfolta) September 2, 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
— Greg Wetherall (@GregWetherall) September 3, 2019
I’m still trying to untangle my feelings about #ThePaintedBird. How do you begin to assess something like that? It’s the most beautiful ugly film I have ever seen. Relentlessly harrowing. Brutal. Cruel. Confrontational. It’s also a truly staggering achievement. #Venezia76
— Greg Wetherall (@GregWetherall) September 3, 2019
Some, however, didn’t feel the movie’s excessive violence was worthwhile.
#ThePaintedBird opens with a pet ferret burned alive in front of a young boy. It's squeals are deafening… and the film only gets bleaker from there. I'm not adverse to violence or controversy in cinema but this film is relentless in its misery. Torture to watch #Venezia76 pic.twitter.com/r2agVkAfCW
— David Opie (@DavidOpie) September 3, 2019
#ThePaintedBird is a miserable experience, a proper disappointment as we follow this kid getting abused both physically, mentally and even sexually. Massive walkouts throughout the movie. A missed opportunity, and the cast is overly wasted. #Venezia76 #VeniceFilmFestival
— Omar Franini (@OmarFranini) September 2, 2019
Overall, most critics seemed to think that the movie was worth a watch, despite the excessive amounts of violence.
On Twitter and in reviews, most critics concluded that the film was violent but also relevant, given its political overtones and message.
Deborah Young of the Hollywood Reporter called the film “heart-wrenching” and said it was an “ideal film treatment” of the original novel.
“I can state without hesitation that this is a monumental piece of work and one I’m deeply glad to have seen,” the Guardian’s Xan Brooks wrote in his review. He added that the film ends “with the smallest glimmer of hope” that’s ultimately satisfying.
“After three hours in hell a lone crumb of comfort can fill us up like a banquet,” Brooks concluded.