KORCZAK (1990)

Movie Info

Movie Info

Andrezej Wajda
Run Time
1 hour and 55 minutes
Not Rated

VP Content Ratings

Sex & Nudity
Star Rating
★★★★4.5 out of 5

Polish with English subtitles

 Not Rated. Running time: 1 hour 55 min.

Our content ratings (1-10): Violence 5; Language 1; Sex/Nudity 1.

Our star rating (1-5): 4.5

 Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”

Matthew 19:13-14

Director Andrezej Wajda’s film about Dr. Janusz Korczak’s heroic efforts to provide for the 200 children of his orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto is informative and inspiring. Famous for his writings and radio talks, the doctor lead what amounted to a children’s rights movement in his native Poland. He even wrote books specifically for children, their purpose being, like those of Fred Rogers, not just to entertain but to instill a positive self image and creative values in their young readers. He was running an orphanage when 400,000 Jews were herded into the Warsaw Ghetto. He became dedicated to securing enough food and clothing for the children, and even more so in his attempt to keep up their morale in the face of such overwhelming incidents of evil perpetrated daily by the Nazis. As a realist he did not think his efforts were so noble. He remarked, “He who says that he sacrifices himself for somebody else is a liar. This man likes to play cards, that man likes women, another never misses a horse race. I like children.” That he certainly did, but what he refused to say about himself, we can—here is a courageous man who, though he received much for his benevolence, gave far more than he received, ultimately his life. Because he was such a famous person he could have escaped from the Ghetto any number of times. Even near the end, when it became clear that the Nazis would clear the Ghetto of all Jews, he turned down the escape plans of his friends because he could not “abandon my children.” The film shows well his spiritual crisis when he speaks of crying out to God, only to find that he and his fellow Jews are alone. Excellently acted, this film, like Spielberg’s, is enhanced by its black and white photography. The strange, almost surreal ending of the film, must have been put in to mitigate the horror and the failure of the doctor to protect his small charges. It proved controversial at the time of the film’s release, but perhaps now is more acceptable. There is no Easter for the Good Friday victims in this film, despite the ending scene. Indeed that scene bears witness to the Easter hope embedded in each of us, including the film’s maker. The best that I can say is that Korczak stood with Jesus in his love and concern for children, and whether or not he accepted Christ as Messiah (how could a Jew do so when those claiming to follow Christ were the ones exterminating Christ’s people?) he has a firm place in the still emerging kingdom of God. If you have benefited from this and other reviews on this site, please give us your support by subscribing to the journal, or at least buying one of the $4.95 items available. Thank you.

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