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Korczak Review

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Account of the last days of Janusz Korczak, the legendary Polish pedagogue who set up a orphan's home in the Warsaw ghetto during the grim 'final solution' days of WWII. Unabashed at german authority, his priority is to his children rather than his own life.

★★★★

Hollywood has often stumbled through its various efforts to sanitize the holocaust for mass consumption, but this hugely impressive multi-European co-production (which includes the BBC) was a seminal masterstroke from established Polish master Andrej Wajda.

In telling the story of the eponymous Polish Jewish pediatrician who chose to die in Treblinka rather than betray his motley group of 200 children refugees, Wajda avoids all the usual pitfalls that one might expect to befall a "kids-in-Nazi-peril" film and instead, by observing the behavior of ordinary people when confronted by an extraordinary obscenity, manages to question the conceit that we all share, namely that we would probably have done the right thing if faced with that situation.

Shot in the bleakest of black and white tones by long-time Wim Wenders collaborator Robby Muller, Korcjak contains not one frame to jar an audience's visual sensibilities, nor is there a single discordant note struck by the large group of child performers. And, obviously aware of the voyeurism inherent in any cinematic depiction of the Holocaust, Wajda seems selflessly content to allow his film to be judged in terms of subjective experience rather than as some kind of artistic achievement.

A superb piece of work and one that deserves a large audience wherever it plays.

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