The 2017 Edinburgh International Film Festival showed 'Wołyń' under the title 'Volhynia'. The film's official English title, however, is 'Hatred'.
While Europe was tearing itself apart during the Second World War, another conflict, between Poles and Ukrainians, was going on in eastern Europe as militant Ukrainian organisations sought to expel all non-Ukrainians (chiefly Poles, but Jews as well) from the territory of a future Ukrainian state. This film centres on the impact of the violence on an ethnically-mixed village of Poles, Ukrainians and Jews, with the central character being Zosia, the prettiest (and blondest) girl in the village, who is in love with Petro, the prettiest (and blondest) *boy* in the village. But her father marries her off instead to Maciej, the village's much-older alderman. As awful as this is for Zosia, these domestic concerns pale into insignificance as the inter-ethnic violence is unleashed...
... and unleashed it certainly is. When the film's interminable opening wedding scene ended I was glad because it meant the women finally stopped singing; but then I got bored with the violence - there are only so many times you can see someone having their spine pulled out before you stop paying attention. And that is a shame, because this is, after all, based on real events and real suffering. Director/writer Wojciech Smarzowski (adapting short stories by Stanisław Srokowski) would have done better to produce a shorter film (2½ hours is too long), keeping the character development and focussing on just one or two violent incidents - that, I feel, would have had more impact (and not resulted in this particular viewer, on seeing someone pulled in half between two horses in yet another gory scenario, dispassionately thinking "surely his arms would pop out first?")
I found it difficult to keep up with who was Polish and who was Ukrainian - although the sub-titles are helpfully laballed 'Pol' and 'Ukr' - as so many of the characters speak in both languages anyway. I did appreciate that the film made the point that Poles were not only victims: they committed acts of violence also. And I liked the character bits. So I would recommend watching it once, but I doubt that I will watch it again.
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