The Painted Bird (film)

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The Painted Bird
Official promotional poster
Directed byVáclav Marhoul
Screenplay byVáclav Marhoul
Based onThe Painted Bird
by Jerzy Kosiński
Produced byVáclav Marhoul
CinematographyVladimír Smutný
Edited byLuděk Hudec
  • PubRes
  • Silver Screen
Distributed by
  • Bioscop (Czech Republic)[1]
  • Magic Box (Slovakia)[2]
  • Arthouse Traffic (Ukraine)[3]
Release dates
  • 3 September 2019 (2019-09-03) (Venice)[4][5]
  • 12 September 2019 (2019-09-12) (Czech Republic)[6]
Running time
169 minutes[7]
  • Czech Republic
  • Slovakia
  • Ukraine
Budget175 million CZK[8]
(USD$7.5 million)
Box office$662,505[9][10]

The Painted Bird (Czech: Nabarvené ptáče, Interslavic: Kolorovana ptica[11]) is a 2019 internationally co-produced black and white war drama film written, directed and produced by Václav Marhoul.[12] An adaptation of Jerzy Kosiński's novel of the same name,[13][14] it is the first film to feature the Interslavic language;[15][16] Marhoul stated that he decided to use Interslavic so that no Slavic nation would nationally identify with the story.[17]

The Painted Bird was selected to play in competition at the 76th Venice International Film Festival and was chosen for 2019 Toronto International Film Festival as part of Special Presentations.[18] The film also screened in the Dare strand at the 63rd BFI London Film Festival. It was selected as the Czech entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards making the December shortlist.[19][20] Its brutal scenes led to walkouts from audiences at the Venice, Toronto and London film festivals.[21] At the 35th Warsaw International Film Festival, the audience honored the film with a long ovation after its only screening.[22]


In an unidentified area of war-torn Eastern Europe, a young boy lives with his elderly aunt. Startled at her death, the boy accidentally sets the house ablaze and leaves. His further adventures are a series of horrific encounters with ignorance, exploitation, and depravity. In the first village he reaches, an old healer buys him, but he is later blamed for bad luck and thrown in a river. He is next taken in by a miller and his wife. After the miller gouges out the eyes of a younger man seen exchanging glances with his wife, the boy runs off. He meets Lekh, a bird breeder who treats him well. Lekh has sex with a wild woman whom local village women later brutally rape with a bottle for also having sex with their teenage sons, after which Lekh hangs himself. The boy leaves.

The boy finds a tame horse with a broken leg and takes it to the next village, where a villager kills it. Cossack Cavalry Corps force the villagers to deliver him to the Germans, identifying him as a Jew. The German soldier tasked with executing the boy releases him. Later caught by SS guards who bring him to a local town, he is saved from execution. A local priest takes him in, but then arranges for him to lodge with a local man named Garbos, who proves to be a pedophile. The boy causes Garbos's gruesome death. After the well-meaning priest dies, his replacement has no use for the boy, and he is run out of the town.

The boy is then taken in by Labina. When her elderly father dies, she coaxes the boy into performing sexual acts on her, beating him when he fails to perform and mocking his inadequacy by simulating sex with a goat. He later retaliates by killing the goat and tossing its head through Labina's window before running away.

The boy comes into contact with the Red Army again. One of the Soviet officers, a sniper named Mitka, decides to take care of him temporarily. The boy watches Mitka kill several locals in reprisal for an attack on Russian soldiers. As the Russians decamp, they send the boy to an orphanage, where he is a loner and repeatedly tries to escape. He is beaten by a local anti-Semitic shopkeeper, whom he kills in revenge. A man named Nikodém comes to the orphanage, greets the boy tearfully as his son, and takes him home. The boy refuses to speak. Nikodém tries to explain why they sent him to his aunt and the boy protests angrily. He asks if he at least remembers his name, but the boy does not respond. Traveling by bus toward home, Nikodém falls asleep. His son notices a number tattooed on his father's arm and with his finger writes his name, Joska, on the bus window.



Václav Marhoul announced his intention to adapt Jerzy Kosiński's The Painted Bird in September 2012 when he secured rights for the story. Marhoul said that the film would have a budget of approximately 120 million CZK. He planned to secure finance during the following 2 years.[23] The film received financial support of 15 million CZK from the Czech Film Fund in 2016.[24]

The film entered production in 2017. Marhoul decided to shoot the film in seven phases.[25] First phase finished on 7 May 2017. Filmmakers were filming around Ukrainian village Svalovych from 23 March 2017 to 12 April 2017. Some reshoots had to be made from 21 to 23 April 2017 in Brdy Military area.[26] Second phase started in South Slovakia on 5 June 2017 to 5 July 2017. The film crew was shooting around Váh river, at Mlynská Dolina and in Malý Dunajec.[27]

Shooting moved to Lipno Dam and Kvilda in February and March 2018. the crew had to deal with bad weather as they needed ice on the lake.[28] Shooting concluded in July 2018 after 100 shooting days over 16 months. The film then entered post production.[29][30] Post production concluded in February 2019.[31]

For the villagers' dialogue, Marhoul decided to use the Interslavic language instead of any ethnic Slavic language:

I didn't want the villagers (speaking) Ukrainian or Polish or Russian or something like that because those people (the villagers in the film) are really bad people. [...] I didn't want some nation to be associated with that.[32]



The first trailer for the film was released on 28 July 2019.[33] The film had its worldwide premiere at the 76th Venice International Film Festival on 3 September 2019.[34] The film was first projected in Czech cinemas for journalists on 11 September 2019. It entered distribution for Czech cinemas on 12 September 2019.[35] The film had been originally scheduled to be released in May 2019.[36]

IFC Films became the United States distributor in October 2019.[37][38] The United States premiere was set for 10 July 2020.[39] and the United Kingdom premiere was set for 27 March 2020.[40]

Home media[edit]

The film is set to be released on Home Media in the Czech Republic and Slovakia on 25 March 2020.[6]


Critical response[edit]

The Painted Bird has received very positive reviews from critics with many likening it to films by Andrei Tarkovsky.[41] It holds an approval rating of 82% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 109 reviews, with an average rating of 7.5/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "Brutally uncompromising in its portrayal of Nazi Germany, The Painted Bird is a difficult watch that justifies its dark horror with searing impact."[42] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 72 out of 100, based on 23 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[43]

The film was projected for journalists on 2 September 2019. Some people left the theatre as they could not stand the depicted violence and rape scenes. The Daily Mail described it as "a panoply of depravity.”[44] Overall reception was positive as the film received a long ovation from the audience and some unofficial responses called it one of the front-runners for Golden Lion, but ultimately lost to Joker. Director Marhoul was particularly praised.[45][46] The film also received a 10-minute standing ovation during its premiere on 3 September 2019.[47][48]

Xan Brooks of The Guardian gave the film five stars, calling it a "savage, searing three-hour tour of hell" and "phantasmagorical horror, rattling around ravaged eastern Europe for just shy of three hours." He praised the film's visuals and atmosphere.[49] Guy Lodge of Variety was also positive, noting camerawork by Vladimír Smutný. He called the film "muscular, savagely realized Jerzy Kosiński adaptation puts an unnamed Jewish boy through a challenging litany of Holocaust horrors."[50]

In a more negative review, A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Club praised the film's cinematography while criticizing its bleak tone, saying "The Painted Bird is, in the end, the kind of slog that treats shopworn insights about the brutality of man as justification for drowning us in the evidence."[51]

The Hollywood Reporter picked The Painted Bird as one of 20 best films projected at Film festivals during Fall 2019.[52]

Box office[edit]

The film opened in Czech cinemas on 12 September 2019. It was attended by 26,094 people and grossed 4,034,060 CZK during the first weekend.[53] The film grossed 14,267,334 CZK in Czech theatres, equal to $620,319.[54]


The Painted Bird was nominated for 11 Czech Lion Awards and has won 9 of them including the Best film.[55]

Awards and nominations received by The Painted Bird
Year Event Award Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
2019 Venice International Film Festival Golden Lion Best Film The Painted Bird Nominated [56]
Cinema for UNICEF Fight for children's rights The Painted Bird Won [57][58]
Nový Bor Academy of United Cinematography NASK Award Contribution to Czech and World Cinematography Václav Marhoul Won [59]
Chicago International Film Festival Gold Hugo Best Feature Film The Painted Bird Nominated [60]
Best Cinematography Vladimír Smutný Won [61]
Camerimage Golden Frog Best Cinematography Vladimír Smutný Nominated [62]
Bronze Frog Main Competition Vladimír Smutný Won [63]
FIPRESCI AWARD Enterprising film making Vladimír Smutný Won [64]
Listapad Grand Prix Golden Listapad Best film The Painted Bird Nominated [65]
Kolkata International Film Festival Golden Royal Bengal Tiger Best Director Václav Marhoul Won [66][67]
17th Warsaw Jewish Film Festival Camera of David Best Screenplay Václav Marhoul Won [68][69]
Best Cinematography Vladimír Smutný Won
2020 24th Satellite Awards Satellite Award Best Foreign Language Film The Painted Bird Nominated [70]
Trilobit Awards 2020 Beroun Gossip Audience Award The Painted Bird Won [71]
9th Czech Film Critics' Awards Czech Film Critics' Award Best Film The Painted Bird Nominated [72][73]
Best Director Václav Marhoul Nominated
Best Audiovisual Work Vladimír Smutný (Filmography) Won
Jan Vlasák (Production Design) Nominated
27th Czech Lion Awards Czech Lion Award Best Film The Painted Bird Won [74]
Best Director Václav Marhoul Won
Best Actor in Leading Role Petr Kotlár Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Jitka Čvančarová Nominated
Best Screenplay Václav Marhoul Nominated
Best Editing Luděk Hudec Won
Best Cinematography Vladimír Smutný Won
Best Stage Design Jan Vlasák Won
Best Makeup and Hairstyling Ivo Strangmüller Won
Best Costume Design Helena Rovná Won
Best Sound Pavel Rejholec Won
Extraordinary Audiovisual Achievement Václav Marhoul Won
Best Film Poster Roman Mrázek Won
33rd Finále Plzeň Film Festival Golden Kingfisher Best Feature Live Action or Animated Film The Painted Bird Nominated [75]
33rd European Film Awards European Film Award Best Film The Painted Bird Nominated [76]

International festivals[edit]

The film was selected to appear on various International film festivals. It includes:

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ "Pomaľované Vtáča". 31 May 2019.
  3. ^ "Пофарбоване пташеня – Arthouse Traffic".
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  5. ^ "Biennale Cinema 2019 | the Painted Bird". 15 July 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Nabarvené ptáče (2019)". Czech and Slovak Film Database (in Czech). Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  7. ^ "Marhoul jedná s agenty a chystá premiéru filmu Nabarvené ptáče". 26 November 2018. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  8. ^ "Nabarvené ptáče patří mezi nejdražší české filmy". Retrieved 30 August 2019.
  9. ^ "The Painted Bird". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  10. ^ "The Painted Bird". The Numbers. IMDb. Retrieved 26 July 2020.
  11. ^ "Kolorovana ptica (film)". Medžuviki. Retrieved 5 June 2023.
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  14. ^ Strbova, Denisa. "PRODUCTION: Václav Marhoul Starts Shooting The Painted Bird". Retrieved 22 February 2018.
  15. ^ "The Painted Bird — the First Film in Interslavic". Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  16. ^ ""Раскрашенная птица" – кинодебют межславянского языка". Radio Praha (in Russian). 18 December 2018. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
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  18. ^ Podskalská, Jana (4 September 2019). "Festival v Torontu začíná. Marhoulův boj pokračuje". (in Czech). Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  19. ^ "Academy Unveils 2020 Oscar Shortlists". The Hollywood Reporter. 16 December 2019. Retrieved 17 December 2019.
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  57. ^ ""The Painted Bird" wins Cinema for UNICEF award in Venice". Radio Praha. 7 September 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  58. ^ "Nabarvené ptáče získalo v Benátkách studentskou cenu. Za boj za práva dětí". (in Czech). 6 September 2019. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  59. ^ "Čeští kinaři udíleli své "Oscary"". (in Czech). Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  60. ^ "Announcing Competitions for the 55th Chicago International Film Festival". Cinema Chicago. 16 September 2019. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
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  67. ^ "KIFF 2019: The Weeping Woman receives Golden Royal Bengal Tiger Award for Best Film". The Indian Express. 16 November 2019. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
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External links[edit]