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The life and death of Janusz Korczak, the Polish-Jewish doctor who defied the Nazis and tended the children in the Warsaw ghetto, was first filmed (rather well, if memory serves) by Rudolph Cartier for the BBC in 1962. Wajda's version covers the same ground, and adds nothing to the sum of human knowledge of the Holocaust; since he himself has been accused of anti-Semitism in the past, it looks suspiciously like a director's heart-on-sleeve riposte to his critics. Agnieszka Holland's script starts from the German occupation of Warsaw in 1939 and the brutal herding of the city's Jews into the makeshift ghetto; it concludes with the inevitable journey to Treblinka in 1942. Korczak (more than adequately played by Pszoniak) is seen as a pugnacious academic, tough on adults - Zionist elders as well as Nazis - but soft on kids. Everything from Robby Müller's monochrome photography to Wojciech Kilar's score is a model of 'taste' and sensitivity, and all concerned work overtime to avoid sentimentality. The problem is that the film's very existence is itself a sentimental gesture. After Shoah, earnest humanist tracts are no longer enough.

Release details

Duration: 118 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Andrzej Wajda
Screenwriter: Agnieszka Holland
Cast: Wojtek Pszoniak
Ewa Dalkowska
Piotr Kozlowski
Marzena Trybala
Wojciech Klata
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