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46 of 46 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 26, 2003
Every movie Andrzej Wajda made is unique and memorable and many of them are masterpieces. This film made in 1990 is one of my favorites. If you've seen Polanski's THE PIANIST this is an excellent film to see if you want to learn more about what life was like in the Warsaw Ghetto.
Before war breaks out Korczak has already achieved much notoriety. His voice is heard by millions on his radio show and he is recognized in the street by both Poles and Germans alike as a progressive minded humanitarian. He is also a doctor who runs an orphanage for Jewish children and in the opening scenes we hear him on his radio program as he tells just how much his childen mean to him. As soon as the political climate within Poland changes however the doctors program is cancelled and before long the doctor along with his 200 children are marched toward the Warsaw Ghetto. At first the doctor believes the war will be a short one and he confronts the Germans and shames them for their mistreatment of the Jewish Poles. But as events unfold the doctors optimism becomes dimmer and dimmer. It does not take long for people to start dying in the ghetto of starvation and sickness and the doctor soon comes to realize that is very unlikely that either he or the children will survive the war. Death is everywhere around them and the doctor sees all that he can do is try and make this constant contact with death less fearful and so writes plays for the children in which death is experienced as a peaceful thing. These are hard scenes to watch and as moving as anything you will see on film but there is also a beauty to them as they show just how profoundly the doctor feels the childrens suffering. The doctor believes in not just feeding the childrens and caring for them when they are sick but also he believes in making good people out of them and despite the dire circumstances he never ceases acting with the childrens interests in mind, their interests always come before his own. They all admire him and look to him as a beacon of hope. And the doctor does not fail his children. The last scenes of the children walking proudly hand in hand with their Korczak are moving and uplifting even though we know what fate awaits them. The ending of this film has a lyric beauty that I will not give away but I could not give it away even if I wanted to as it really trancends any description of it--you just have to experience it. We feel what the children feel for their beloved Korczak and in a way we all--the best part of ourselves-- marches with them.

The very highest recommendation.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 1999
I saw this movie with a friend in the summer of 1992 at an art theater in St. Louis and went back the next and final night to see it again. It was a gripping, beautiful portrayal of a fantastic story. I have never forgotten this film and was thrilled to find it listed here on Amazon. I cannot recommend this movie enough.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2003
I love Korczak, I love the person. I have read some of his works, and I wonder how he understood the child so well. he never had a child of his own but he was the 'mother of 200 children'......
the movie will show you the kind of man Korczak was.....
the story is amazing, and true.
I am so glad this movie was made \
a masterpiece!
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2005
When I first saw and fell in love with Wajda's film, Korczak, I didn't know it had once been the center of controversy. Although given a standing ovation at Cannes during the festival in 1990, it was nevertheless branded as anti-Semitic by "Le Monde" the next day. Was Wajda stepping over the line between Jew and non-Jew? Why were Polish Catholics so obviously absent from the film? Why didn't Korczak fight back? Major distributors refused to circulate the film outside Poland.

I won't go over the story of the film, a slice from the real life of Dr. Korczak, a Jew who was staunchly Polish and who, above all else, fought for children's rights whatever religion. I will say that the Christian symbols were profoundly moving, likewise, the doctor's relentless affirmation of life and of spiritual life: the halo which appears momentarily above the head of a boy who finally breaks down crying and tells the doctor of his encounter with his mother's corpse on the street; the daily weighing in of children and other routines which he uses to keep the children focused on their health; the play performed in the ghetto orphanage by the children which portrays death as a natural event that comes with life; the eye contact and body language between Korczak and a rifle-wielding Nazi guard as the doctor dares water a small potted plant in his presence.

Wajda's great talent for working with actors, Holland's brilliant script, the disturbing black and white cinematography by Robby Muller (cameraman for Wim Wenders) cut with documentary footage taken by the Nazi's, and Pszoniak's dignified performance as Dr. Korczak make this film truly magnificent.

The ideas explored in this film are touchy. Can Wajda, a non-Jew, speak for Jewish people killed in the Holocaust? Could non-violence have been an effective weapon against Hitler and the Nazi's as Ghandi proposed? Ultimately, you will have to answer those questions for yourself. I highly recommend this and all of Andreij Wajda's films.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2003
Possible spoiler herein...
Better than the Pianist? Tough call, but yes in many ways. Polanski is definitely better cinematically, but Wayda, from Holland's script, renders human relations more finely. Probably its biggest weakness is the choppiness between plot lines. For me, the Poles definitely lead the way on cinematic treatment of the Holocaust.
Szpilman was aloof, and Korczak fully engaged, and their trajectories diverge. Korczak was a world renowned orphanage director and pediatrician, whose radio show was massively popular among all Poles before the War. This meant he was given every chance to escape safely, and walk away from his hundreds of Jewish orphans in the Jewish ghetto; but, instead, his absolute devotion to giving his orphans some semblance of childhood drove him to "deal with the devil himself." On the other hand he knows that the children will have to deal with death at an early age, and he is committed to giving them appropriate comfort and emotional tools. Perhaps the most humane treatment death and childhood in film. It also points to the conflict in impossible situations between those remain dignified and steadfast to humane ideals and those who resist with violence.
The film could be pedantic, but Wojciech Pszoniak (Korczach) is a toned-down, serious version of Robin Williams (close to Oliver Sacks in Awakenings). This gives a much more honest (and probably more loving) approach to helping children to face hardship than "Life is Beautiful."
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 1999
I don't really consider myself the "artsy" foreign film type. And even worse, when my friend told me it was about the Holocaust, I thought, "Oh no, not another depressing movie about the holocaust." But was I wrong. This movie rivals Schindler's List. The ending (Don't worry, I won't spoil it for you) was done in such an uplifting and beautiful way, I couldn't help but be amazed.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2009
Oh, my... this is a difficult movie to review/describe...To say that Wojciech Pszonika *personified* Janusz Korczak is a terrible understatement...

I viewed it [English subtitled version] the first time in college, some 20 years ago. A mainstream 'channel had shown 'The Diary of Anne Frank'... this particular fellow [on a Canadian TV station- I'm American] hosted a type of show, along the lines of: "Well, if you liked the recent showing of [insert your archetype movie], you'll REALLY like tonight's showing of [a typically SUPERIOR movie of said archetype].

Needless to say, Korczak left an indelible mark on me. I have read many of his books, and this movie accurately reflects his attitudes towards children [I encourage anyone who likes the movie to read his written works... they are illuminating and obviously WELL beyond his time].

The fellow I purchased this non-subtitled DVD is to be praised- he e-mailed me to be certain that I knew what I was buying [I don't speak Polish, but that is immaterial, such is the impression this movie will make on you]. This is one DVD that will remain in my library, to be passed on to later generations.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2001
This film is different from other depictions of the Holocaust in that in focusses on life in the ghetto. At first, the acting seemed overdone. But as I was drawn into the fascinating true story of Janusc Korczak, a physician and beloved national star of a children's radio program who moved to the ghetto with the children in the orphanage he ran, I began to appreciate the acting style of another culture. Korczak, who was given many opportunities to escape, remained with his children even until the bitter end when they are all deported to Treblinka. The ending (I will not spoil it for you, as one of the other reviewers said too)is absolutely brilliant. Korczak's progressive ideas about the education of children, his pleas to raise money for the orphans, his struggle in the ghetto are all brilliantly portrayed. This film, along with "Schindler's List" (and to a slightly lesser extent, "Europa, Europa") was directed, acted and written in such a way that one word comes to mind: genius.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda is known for many films in his oeuvre. From "Ashes and Diamonds" (1958), "The Promised Land" (1975), "Man of Iron" (1981), "Danton" (1983), "Katyn" (2007), his films have won many awards, have earned him international recognition.

But there is one film that has not won an award yet an important film about the Holocaust and a film of one of the most respected men of Warsaw, Janusz Korczak.

Korczak was a pediatrician and educator who believed strongly in helping the children. From helping children arrange their first newspaper "Maly Przeglad", which was released with the Polish-Jewish newspaper "Nasz Przeglad", to his his popular radio show promoting the rights of the children to writing children's books, taking care of children was his life.

And during World War II, Doctor Korczak, who was a famous figure, was responsible for 200 children at an orphanage in Warsaw. He and his assistant Stefania Wilczynska (a.k.a. Madame Stefa) stayed with them from their exile from their homes and forced to live in the ghetto. And when the whole location was occupied by Nazi Germany, and seeing for himself of the despair that Polish Jews had to endure daily, despite being offered so many chances to escape, Korczak refused. As with his staff who stuck with Dr. Korczak and refused to abandon the children.

His life was about taking care of the children and in 1942, despite being offered chances to escape, he would never leave these children alone. And even though his orphanage was the home for children and was thought to be a safe-zone that the Nazi's would not touch, on August 6, 1942, they received orders from the Nazi's that they would be deported.

And together, Dr. Janusz Korczak, staff members of the orphanage and along with 192 children were taken to the Treblinka extermination camp where they all died in a gas chamber.

Andrzej Wajda's biographical film is a moving, heartbreaking and important film showcasing Dr. Janusz Korczak from the rumor of a pending war, losing his radio show and eventually being in charge of the 200 children in his orphanage, up to the day they received orders for deportation to the extermination camp.

The film captures the despair as seen in the eyes of the children of the orphanage, and his staff, Wajda's film also shows us the the challenges that Korczak and his staff had in order to care for the dying children in the orphanage, the lack of money and the doctor staying firm in not accepting the Nazi status quo.


"Korczak" is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 anamorphic widescreen) black and white. The original negative source was definitely in good shape as the clarity of the film looks amazing. There were some artifacts but for the most part, the film was sharp with whites and grays well-contrast and black levels being inky and deep. Kino Lorber is known for not tweaking their Blu-ray releases and for the most part, people should enjoy how this film looks in HD. It looks great on Blu-ray!


"Korczak" is presented in Polish monaural LPCM 1.0 with English subtitles. The film is primarily a dialogue-driven film with some moments of crowd ambiance and gunshot with occasional music. While watching the film, I heard no hiss or any audio problems whatsoever.


"Korczak" comes with a trailer and stills gallery.


"Korczak" is a powerful film that highlights one of the well-known humanitarians of the holocaust.

Where monuments of Dr. Janusz Korczak is seen in Warsaw, of him holding the hands of children. He has left a legacy showcasing one man's refusal to adapt to the enemy's status quo, he was a man who also was unselfish. Knowing he could escape and live a free life away from Nazi Germany, he didn't.

He was a man that was compassionate to the children and he, along with his staff were not going to abandon them. It was his sense of responsibility and honor which he would be remembered for.

It's important to note that while the film is titled "Korczak", it's not a film meant to glorify the man. What makes this film so important is that Andrzej Wajda gives us a visual of how badly things were for Polish Jews. From extermination to being beaten, we see how children had to survive at the orphanage, as some tried to bring back potatoes or food for the orphanage which was becoming depleted of its funds. It's the setting and despair that Wajda wants people to see. And how one man, still remained to stay true to himself and what he believes is right.

We see how the children were affected and feeling suicidal, we see how the staff had to deal with the deaths of children (who died of sickness or were shot by Nazi's as they tried to find supplies). Dr. Janusz Korczak was showcased as an honorable man with responsibility. Almost like father to these children but also a man pushed to the brink of despair. He knew that the children were fragile, and it would be up to him and the staff to earn the children's trust and that they would be there for them and not abandoned.

The portrayal of Dr. Janusz Korczak by Wojciech Pszoniak was fantastic Looking at pictures of Dr. Korczak, Pszoniak looked very similar in appearance but it everything else came together perfectly. It's one thing to have one child actor but to have many, especially to behave in fear, the child actors were able to play their parts with amazing efficacy. The set and costume design were also well-done and with the footage mixed with archival footage, "Korczak" seemed like it was a film made during that era.

As for the Blu-ray release, "Korczak" looks great considering the film is over 20-years-old. The picture quality features grays and whites that are well-contrast and black levels that are inky and deep. If anything, the film looks magnificent on Blu-ray and it's monaural lossless track is clear and no sign of hiss or crackling. While I wish there were interviews or an audio commentary included with the special features, the Blu-ray release of "Korczak" is probably the definitive version to own of this film at this time.

Steven Spielberg said of AndrzeJ Wajda's "Korczak" as "one of the most important European pictures about the holocaust."

I personally never knew the story of Janusz Korczak but after watching the film, I found Adrzej Wajda's film to be so powerful and moving, I found myself spending hours of researching and reading more about him, about his assistant Stefania Wilczynska and anything related to Dr. Korczak.

A moving and heartbreaking film about one doctor refusing to abandon 200 children during the Holocaust. Adrzej Wajda's "Korczak" is recommended!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2015
It's extremely difficult to understand why this film raised a specter of anti-Semitism on its release. Considering the arch-revisionism that has since swept Poland and east Europe it's utter nonsense to sneer at Wajda, a non-Jew, for attempting to deal with the most transcendent issues of life through Dr. Korczak's death. The film resonates with triumph, despite the last scene of illusionary liberation. There are a score of poignant moments throughout: Korczak's comfort of the boy who saw his mother wheeled off in a ghetto deathcart; the team leader who no longer wants to be a Jew and wishes to die; Korczak's delving into the depraved depths of ghetto collaborators - dealing with the Devil - to save his children. Perhaps the most significant scene is his watering of his window plant under the nose of his Nazi ghetto guard, who seems to sense the extremely subversive nature of the encounter and is about to unsling his rifle. The guard's confusion gets the better of him, and the doctor scores his small yet infinite victory over guard and ghetto.

Every bit as worthy - perhaps more so - as Hollywood Holocaustography with billion-dollar budgets and graphic bloodletting. Anyone sincerely interested in exploring the human as well as Jewish issues of the Holocaust must see this film.
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