Koch Lorber Films

If any good has come from the recent death in a plane crash of the president of Poland and many of the country’s governmental elite while en route to Russia, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, it’s that the tragic event has called attention to one of World War II’s most shameful incidents—Stalin’s systematic liquidation of the captured Polish officer corps, as many as 22,000 men, and their burial in mass graves in the Katyn forest. Fortunately, the most recent film by the 83-year-old lion of Polish cinema, Andrzej Wajda (Ashes and Diamonds, Man of Marble), Katyn (2007), is now out on DVD. It follows four men—a cavalry captain, a university professor, a general and a lieutenant—and members of their families as it traces the impacts of the massacre through the war and into the post-war Soviet occupation of Poland, when the Soviets tried to blame it on the Nazis and rounded up and “disappeared” those family members who knew the truth. This is a richly told story of ordinary people trying to hold onto their dignity while the world does all it can to strip them of it. In what may be his last film, Wajda, whose own father died at Katyn, has given us a masterpiece of storytelling.