Finally, a good Polish Netflix original series landed on the streaming platform. And one Polish film succeeded, even though many Poles are embarrassed.
First one is The Woods. It is a six-part thriller directed by Leszek Dawid and Bartosz Konopka, adapted from a Harlan Coben story. The synopsis reads:
“Set in two time spans: 1994 and 2019, The Woods tells the story of a Warsaw prosecutor, Paweł Kopiński, who is still grieving the loss of his sister from twenty-five years ago – the night she walked into the woods at a summer camp and was never seen again. But now, the discovery of a homicide victim – a boy who vanished along with Paweł’s sister – reveals evidence that links him to her disappearance. As hope rises that his sister could still be alive, dangerous secrets from his family’s past threaten to tear apart everything that Paweł has been trying to hold together.”
This is a second Polish-language Netflix original production, after not very successful 1983 (read more in the February 2018 issue of the Newsletter). It is often compared to the Netflix hit Dark, though the Polish production lacks the German series’ supernatural elements and is heavily grounded in reality.
The series isn’t particularly innovative, but it is an absorbing piece of cinematic entertainment, with the potential to boost the appeal of Polish productions for an international audience. It became successful in Europe, Canada, Brazil and New Zealand.
Hailed as being an “super creepy,” by The Mirror, and “a beautifully shot, captivating thriller,” by Forbes, criticisms have largely been limited to pot-shots at an admittedly questionable attempt at dubbing.
Speaking about the new series, the author behind the story himself recommended that people watch it with subtitles, tweeting:
“Proud of the wonderful Polish cast and crew who brought #TheWoods #WGłebiLasu to life. Strongly suggest you watch with subtitles rather than dubbed to appreciate the terrific acting. @netflix gives you that option. Thanks.”
It is important to say that music plays very important role in the series. Foreign viewers can discover a soundtrack that flips between dark and moody to 90s-style rock guitar, with songs of cult Polish bands like Maanam.
The other Polish hit on Netflix is 365 Days. This erotic thriller from directors Barbara Białowas and Tomasz Mande became the most popular feature film in the British and US edition of the platform and in the second place worldwide (!).
Netflix released 365 Days to the international audience on June 7. Within a few days, the film was at the top of Netflix’s top 10. The media hailed it as a Polish version of Fifty Shades of Gray. It is based on an erotic novel by Blanka Lipinska. Lipińska is the most popular Polish author of 2019, loved by readers and hated by critics.
Michele Morrone stars as Massimo, a member of a Sicilian mafia family who fails to protect his father from an assassination after being distracted by a beautiful woman. Massimo becomes so obsessed with the woman, a Polish sales agent named Laura, that he kidnaps and imprisons her. Massimo gives Laura 365 days to fall in love with him or else she can go back to her unhappy life in Poland…
The movie is highly controversial since the main romantic story originates in rape and Stockholm syndrome. But this doesn’t bother its fans who watch very long and very explicit sex scenes with blushes. The most shocking sex scene is a four-minute montage set aboard Massimo’s yacht that includes graphic depictions of various sex types and positions.
The popularity of 365 Days was spiked by the TikTok social media platform, where users recorded millions of reactions to chosen erotic scenes from the film and shared them as #365Days. The #365Days hashtag on TikTok currently has 146.6 million video views and counting.
Unfortunately, Blanka Lipinska has already written two more volumes on continuation of the story and they will also be filmed.
The article was originally published in the “From Poland with Love” FNF newsletter.