Werewolf (4 stars)

Werewolf

Thoughtful WWII thriller focusing on a group of young concentration camp survivors

The horror of war doesn't end with liberation in Werewolf, an intense, imaginative mixture of thriller, fairytale and allegory from Polish writer-director Adrian Panek. There are strong echoes of Lord of the Flies and the Sam Fuller classic White Dog in a story that follows a group of children struggling to survive in the dying weeks of the Second World War.

Survivors of a concentration camp, the band of children find sanctuary in a remote woodland mansion. There is little food, no water or electricity but there is a fragile sense of security. Hanka (Sonia Mietielica) becomes the reluctant leader – a Snow White forced to create a home for her own version of the seven dwarfs. Hanka tries to keep order and restore some vestige of civilised values to the group. The children are encouraged to use cutlery rather than grab for scraps with their hands.

The threat to their safety stretches from Russian soldiers to fugitive Nazis and eventually a pack of vicious German shepherd attack dogs, once at the command of concentration camp officers. The dogs surround the house, leaving the children with little chance of escape.

Panek makes the most of his locations, contrasting the gloom and claustrophobia of the house with the seemingly boundless freedom of the woods. There are tense moments of changing allegiances, lucky escapes and growing tensions between Hanys (Nicolas Przygoda) and traumatised loner Wladek (Kamil Polnisiak), as they compete to impress or befriend Hanka.

Restrained in its depiction of violence and bloodshed, Werewolf provides a thoughtful, sensitive exploration of how humanity endures in the face of such evil. The dogs have been trained to kill. Many of the children have only known a society in which the strong survive and the weak perish. How can compassion hope to flourish in a world gone mad?

Selected release from Fri 4 Oct.

Werewolf

  • 4 stars
  • 2018
  • Poland
  • 1h 28min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Adrian Panek
  • Cast: Nicolas Przygoda, Kamil Polnisiak, Sonia Mietielica

Story of a group of child survivors of a concentration camp struggling to survive in the dying weeks of WWII, with Hanka (Mietielica) becoming their reluctant leader. Restrained in its depiction of violence, it’s a thoughtful and sensitive exploration of humanity enduring in the face of evil.

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