“Operation Hyacinth” Movie Review

Story posted October 25, 2021 in CommRadio, Arts & Entertainment by Sophia D’Ovidio

From 1985-1987 in Poland, there was a secret mass operation that’s goal was to create a national database of homosexuals in the country. This is more commonly known as Operation Hyacinth.

Director Piotr Domalewski sets his 2021 Netflix drama “Operation Hyacinth” during this period in Poland.

This police drama follows Officer Robert, portrayed by Tomasz Zietek, as part of Operation Hyacinth. Officer Robert and his partner are responsible for finding gay men and reporting them. At the precinct, the officers have no respect for the gay people they report illuminating the homophobia that is rampant in Poland during this time.

The film’s main plot revolves around Roberts trying to figure out the true killer behind a case that his colleagues were extremely quick to close. The case was closed quickly when the police’s only evidence was the confession of a suspect brought in by Roberts, who was beaten during his investigation.

In his personal life, Roberts is introduced as coming from a respected police family, especially his father Edward (portrayed by Marek Kalita.) His fiance also works at the police precinct and oversees the evidence lockers.

Roberts goes undercover as a gay man where he meets Arek, who Hubert Milkowski portrays. Roberts decides to use Arek as an informant on the case, since Arek knew many of the killer’s victims. However, the two become close, building tension for the audience, who knows that Roberts will at some point have to reveal his true identity to Arek.

The most exciting aspect of the film comes from the internal conflict within Roberts and the gay desires that he deals with throughout the movie. Zietek does a phenomenal job portraying the conflicted cop with a lot on his plate.

Some of the best “Operation Hyacinth” scenes come from the interrogation of different recently arrested gay men. These are some of the darkest scenes in the film, encapsulating the degradation the gay citizens of Poland were subject to during this time.

These interrogations also help set up the intense interrogation Roberts reluctantly performs on Arek. The heartbreak and betrayal that comes through in this scene is a true highlight of the film.

Another bright spot of the film comes from Milkowski’s performance as a courageous young man. He is highly charismatic, making the viewer feel his hope crushed as he experiences deception.

However, “Operation Hyacinth” can be slow at times, especially in the middle of the film. While the focus shifts to Roberts’ internal conflict and away from the police drama, the viewer's curiosity surrounding the case remains.

The tension is high throughout the film, but its first third is far more interesting than the final third despite its more traditional action.

Also, the plot can get confusing at points. While Domalewski may be trying to keep the audience in the dark for suspense, it also causes confusion in the film.

“Operation Hyacinth” is far from a perfect movie, but it also has some real highlights to be celebrated. The story is exciting and one that is different from what is currently popular in film.

“Operation Hyacinth” is an excellent use of history as the setting of a film, telling a story that hasn’t really been told outside of a classroom and bringing it to life.

Rating: 3/5

Sophia D’Ovidio is a first-year majoring in communications. To contact her, email sgd5184@psu.edu.