'Operation Hyacinth' Review: Polish drama on LGBT persecution checks all the right boxes

The film focuses on the 'pink files' or 'Operation Hyacinth' that terrorized the LGBT community in Poland


                            'Operation Hyacinth' Review: Polish drama on LGBT persecution checks all the right boxes
A still from the movie 'Operation Hyacinth' (IMDb)

'Operation Hyacinth' is a new Polish movie on Netflix directed by Piotr Domalewski; it stars Tomasz Zietek and Hubert Milkowski in lead roles. The film runs for a total of over 100 minutes, with pictureaque scenes of Poland streets and extravagant parties. The film was recently released internationally on Netflix, and is set in the 80s.

'Operation Hyacinth' draws its inspiration from the secret operation conducted under the communist regime in Poland. It aimed at creating a nationwide database of all Polish homosexuals and those that associated themselves with the LGBT community, or are known as queer. The operation lasted for over 2 years (between 1985 and 87) and saw the persecution of over 11,000 individuals - "pink files" were created and used to blackmail and pressure men for their sexuality. Thousands from the community were detained, questioned and surveilled. To this day, most of the files have not been recovered. 

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The film follows Robert, a Polish police officer, whose father is a high-ranking official in the “Secret Police”. While he takes up a case, investigating a homicide, it leads him to another racket, that seems to be rooted deep within Operation Hyacinth. Intrigued, Robert continues to pursue the murder, even after higher authorities (inclusive of his own father) deem the case closed, and comes in closer proximity with the homosexual community in Warsaw.

By now, we are invested in both Robert's personal and professional life. Robert not only goes to show his wit in solving the case but also the change in his character development, as he transitions to becoming a better person whilst working through the case and after solving it.

There’s a fatality to almost all of the above mentioned, which is brilliantly highlighted in the climax. The last chunk of the movie in particular elevates the film from something that's just fun and games, and will eventually leave you with unanswered questions.

An LGBT centred film in the current political climate of Poland is very fresh indeed, and throws a different light on the matter altogether. Having said that, it is also quite a bold statement. 'Operation Hyacinth' creates a fictional story that turns out to be much more than a typical “Based on True Events” film would have been.  

All in all, 'Operation Hyacinth' checks all the boxes for an ideal must-watch. Right from the direction to the plot, to the acting and the cinematography, all of it works in tandem to make for an extraordinary film. While the movie moves at a rather slow pace, it eventually starts gaining momentum during the second half, working to further build up the tension as the film progresses. The genre of the film is a crime thriller, but it could easily be a coming-of-age drama.

The lead undergoes a path of self-realisation, as he uncovers clues to a potential scandal. This slow transition in his character is a star spectacle, and the effect is multidimensional, which helps you see through the multiple layers of complexity that makes Robert understand who he truly is, in due course of time.

The film is most definitely sure to leave you wanting more (even a sequel!), as all great films usually do. In additon, this film will give you a chance to delve into the historical persecution that the LGBTQ community faced, all for just loving who they wanted to.

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