Tear your eyes away long enough from the grotesque acts of violence on screen, and you’ll notice the award-worthy black-and-white cinematography. In a tamer film, this masterful camerawork would take centre stage, but here the film’s ethereal beauty instead further emphasises the surreal, dreamlike quality of the violence.
David Opie, Sight & Sound
The extreme lashings of suffering and sadism shown here are scarcely ameliorated by the exacting beauty of their presentation. Shooting in ravishing 35mm monochrome, apt enough for illustrating a world drawn into stark black-and-white polarities of good and (mostly, it seems) evil, _The Painted Bird _teases its audience into gazing with wonder upon its silvery, shadow-streaked rural tableaux before repeatedly confronting them with images far harder to face with open eyes: a child nearly pecked to death by scavenging crows, a pilloried woman being stabbed and kicked in the genitals, a man losing his own eyeballs to a jealous rival’s rage.
The film’s sheer unblinking stamina is as impressive as its pristine formal composure.
Guy Lodge, Variety