Holocaust drama 'The Painted Bird' prompts mass walkout at Toronto Film Festival

Ben Arnold
The Painted Bird (Credit: TIFF)

Around 40 people walked out of a screening of the controversial holocaust drama The Painted Bird at the Toronto Internatonal Film Festival, according to reports.

Attendees were warned by festival organisers that the movie, an adaptation of the 1965 novel by Jerzy Kosinski made by Czech director Vaclav Marhoul, was 'very difficult to watch'.

But still, around 30 people left during the first hour, with a dozen more having left by the end, reckons The Hollywood Reporter.

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The film centres on a young mute Jewish boy who is sent by his parents to live with his aunt in Eastern Europe to avoid persecution during the World War II.

However, when she dies unexpectedly, the boy, played by non-professional newcomer Petr Kotlar, is suddenly left alone and falls prey to physical and sexual abuse as he navigates his way through Nazi-occupied Europe.

Director Vaclav Marhoul, right, and actor Petr Kotlar pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'The Painted Bird' at the 76th edition of the Venice Film Festival, Venice, Italy, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. (Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision/AP)

There are explicit scenes of abuse, as well as other scenes of graphic violence, with the movie's stars including Harvey Keitel, Udo Kier, Julian Sands and Stellan Skarsgard.

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According to The Hollywood Reporter, TIFF programmer Dorata Lech introduced the film as a 'plunge into the darkest corners of the human soul'.

“It is sometimes very difficult to watch atrocities onscreen, but it is very important to bear witness,” she added.

The film prompted similar walk outs at the Venice Film Festival, where it premiered earlier this month (some audience members were seen actually scrambling for the exits) however, it has also received critical acclaim.

Having seen it Venice, The Guardian's Xan Brooks gave it a full five-stars, calling it 'a savage, searing three-hour tour of hell'.

“I couldn’t look away,” he added.