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Korczak (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 29, 2012 by  



A moving and heartbreaking film about one doctor refusing to abandon 200 children during the Holocaust.  Adrzej Wajda’s “Korczak” is recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Kino Lorber, Inc., All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Korczak

FILM RELEASE: 1990

DURATION: 117 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1:66:1, 1080p High Definition, Polish with English Subtitles, Monoraul

COMPANY: Kino Classics/Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: August 14, 2012

Directed by Andrzej Wajda

Written by Agnieszka Holland

Produced by Janusz Morgenstern, Willi Segler, Daniel Toscan du Plantier, Regina Ziegler

Delegate Producer: Wolfgang Hantke

Music by Wojciech Kilar

Cinematography by Robby Muller

Edited by Ewa Smal

Production Design by Allan Starski

Art Direction by Ewa Skoczkowska

Set Decoration by Magdalena Dipont, Anna Kowarska

Starring:

Wojciech Pszoniak as Henryk Goldszmit vel Janusz Korczak

Ewa Dalkowska as Stefania “Stefa” Wilczynska

Teresa Budzisz-Krzyzanowska as Maryna Rogowska-Falska

Marzena Trybala as Estera

Piotr Kozlowski as Heniek

Zbigniew Zamachowski as Ichak Szulc

Jan Peszek as Max Bauer

Aleksander Bardini as Adam Czerniakow

Maria Chwalibog as Zerniakow’s wife

Andrez Kopiczynski as Dyrektor w Polskim Radiu

Krystyna Zachwatowicz as Szloma’s Mother

Henryk Goldszmit had become a Polish icon in the 1930s through his writings, teachings, and radio programs for children, under the name of Janusz Korczak. When the kids from his Warsaw orphanage were to be deported to the gas chambers of Treblinka, he refused to abandon them, and with them he died in the Holocaust.

Academy Award® winning director Andrzej Wajda (Katyn) brings this tragic tale to the screen in KORCZAK, starring Wojciech Pszoniak as the kind and fiercely committed doctor. After the Nazis invade Poland, the Jewish Korczak and his orphans are moved into the newly formed Ghettos, where he scrounges for food and vainly tries to protect the children from the violence and famine outside their walls.

With a powerful script by Agnieszka Holland (Europa Europa), stunning B&W cinematography by Robby Müller (Dead Man), and performed with self-immolating intensity by Pszoniak and the phenomenally talented ensemble of child actors, Korczak is, as Steven Spielberg wrote, “one of the most important European pictures about the Holocaust.”

Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda is known for many films in his oeuvre.  From “Ashes and Diamonds” (1958), “The Promised Land” (1975), “Man of Iron” (1981), “Danton” (1983), “Katyn” (2007), his films have won many awards, have earned him international recognition.

But there is one film that has not won an award yet an important film about the Holocaust and a film of one of the most respected men of Warsaw, Janusz Korczak.

Korczak was a pediatrician and educator who believed strongly in helping the children.  From helping children arrange their first newspaper “Maly Przeglad”, which was released with the Polish-Jewish newspaper “Nasz Przeglad”, to his his popular radio show promoting the rights of the children to writing children’s books, taking care of children was his life.

And during World War II, Doctor Korczak, who was a famous figure, was responsible for 200 children at an orphanage in Warsaw.  He and his assistant Stefania Wilczynska (a.k.a. Madame Stefa) stayed with them from their exile from their homes and forced to live in the ghetto.  And when the whole location was occupied by Nazi Germany, and seeing for himself of the despair that Polish Jews had to endure daily, despite being offered so many chances to escape, Korczak refused. As with his staff who stuck with Dr. Korczak and refused to abandon the children.

His life was about taking care of the children and in 1942, despite being offered chances to escape, he would never leave these children alone.  And even though his orphanage was the home for children and was thought to be a safe-zone that the Nazi’s would not touch, on August 6, 1942, they received orders from the Nazi’s that they would be deported.

And together, Dr. Janusz Korczak, staff members of the orphanage and along with 192 children were taken to the Treblinka extermination camp where they all died in a gas chamber.

Andrzej Wajda’s biographical film is a moving, heartbreaking and important film showcasing Dr. Janusz Korczak from the rumor of a pending war, losing his radio show and eventually being in charge of the 200 children in his orphanage, up to the day they received orders for deportation to the extermination camp.

The film captures the despair as seen in the eyes of the children of the orphanage, and his staff, Wajda’s film also shows us the the challenges that Korczak and his staff had in order to care for the dying children in the orphanage, the lack of money and the doctor staying firm in not accepting the Nazi status quo.

VIDEO:

“Korczak” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 anamorphic widescreen) black and white.  The original negative source was definitely in good shape as the clarity of the film looks amazing.  There were some artifacts but for the most part, the film was sharp with whites and grays well-contrast and black levels being inky and deep.  Kino Lorber is known for not tweaking their Blu-ray releases and for the most part, people should enjoy how this film looks in HD.  It looks great on Blu-ray!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Korczak” is presented in Polish monaural LPCM 1.0 with English subtitles.  The film is primarily a dialogue-driven film with some moments of crowd ambiance and gunshot with occasional music.  While watching the film, I heard no hiss or any audio problems whatsoever.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Korczak” comes with a trailer and stills gallery.

“Korczak” is a powerful film that highlights one of the well-known humanitarians of the holocaust.

Where monuments of Dr. Janusz Korczak is seen in Warsaw, of him holding the hands of children.  He has left a legacy showcasing one man’s refusal to adapt to the enemy’s status quo, he was a man who also was unselfish.  Knowing he could escape and live a free life away from Nazi Germany, he didn’t.

He was a man that was compassionate to the children and he, along with his staff were not going to abandon them.  It was his sense of responsibility and honor which he would be remembered for.

It’s important to note that while the film is titled “Korczak”, it’s not a film meant to glorify the man.  What makes this film so important is that Andrzej Wajda gives us a visual of how badly things were for Polish Jews.   From extermination to being beaten, we see how children had to survive at the orphanage, as some tried to bring back potatoes or food for the orphanage which was becoming depleted of its funds.  It’s the setting and despair that Wajda wants people to see.  And how one man, still remained to stay true to himself and what he believes is right.

We see how the children were affected and feeling suicidal, we see how the staff had to deal with the deaths of children (who died of sickness or were shot by Nazi’s as they tried to find supplies).  Dr. Janusz Korczak was showcased as an honorable man with responsibility.  Almost like father to these children but also a man pushed to the brink of despair.  He knew that the children were fragile, and it would be up to him and the staff to earn the children’s trust and that they would be there for them and not abandoned.

The portrayal of Dr. Janusz Korczak by Wojciech Pszoniak was fantastic  Looking at pictures of Dr. Korczak, Pszoniak looked very similar in appearance but it everything else came together perfectly.  It’s one thing to have one child actor but to have many, especially to behave in fear, the child actors were able to play their parts with amazing efficacy.  The set and costume design were also well-done and with the footage mixed with archival footage, “Korczak” seemed like it was a film made during that era.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Korczak” looks great considering the film is over 20-years-old.  The picture quality features grays and whites that are well-contrast and black levels that are inky and deep.  If anything, the film looks magnificent on Blu-ray and it’s monaural lossless track is clear and no sign of hiss or crackling.  While I wish there were interviews or an audio commentary included with the special features, the Blu-ray release of “Korczak” is probably the definitive version to own of this film at this time.

Steven Spielberg said of AndrzeJ Wajda’s “Korczak” as “one of the most important European pictures about the holocaust.”

I personally never knew the story of Janusz Korczak but after watching the film, I found Adrzej Wajda’s film to be so powerful and moving, I found myself spending hours of researching and reading more about him, about his assistant Stefania Wilczynska and anything related to Dr. Korczak.

A moving and heartbreaking film about one doctor refusing to abandon 200 children during the Holocaust.  Adrzej Wajda’s “Korczak” is recommended!

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