With Fire and Sword (1999) Poster

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Good period piece with a bit for everyone
gwailo2475 February 2006
As a movie based on a book that is a staple of Polish reading, it is bound to attract its adherents and detractors. But overall it has enough merit to it to warrant at least a single viewing.

The story is set in the 17th century, during a period of strife on the eastern fringes of Polish territory, in today's Ukraine. The main plot centers around a rebellion of Cossacks against the oppression of Polish landowners, in the greater setting of a conflict between Poland, Muscovy and the Tartars.The book was written from a Polish standpoint, so there is some obvious favoritism shown, but the main characters are not one dimensional. The motivations of the characters are clearly explained, and the good guy is not always good, and the bad guy is not always bad. The political intricacies may be a bit confusing, but at its heart this movie is a love triangle, so as long as you focus on that, you can follow along.

The main reason to watch this movie is visual. If you are one of those people who likes to have a movie transport them to another time and place, this movie is for you. The costumes, props and scenery are simply beautiful. All the characters speak in the language they are supposed to speak, so you have conversations in Polish, Ukranian and even Tartar. The performances by the main characters are wonderful, ranging from comedy to romance to drama to action.

The movie has a bit of something for everyone. If you like action, the battle sequences are fantastic, very massive in scale. If you like romance, the lead characters are not too hard on the eyes, and their passionate feelings come across the screen quite strongly. There is a very strong comedy element as well, but you might have to understand Polish to appreciate it fully.

The special effects in this movie leave a bit to be desired. It certainly is a bloody, and at times gory film, but really no worse than a lot of recent US offerings.

If I was to use a US movie as a thematic comparison, Last of the Mohicans might be a good choice, with the hero looking for his love in a wild and savage environment.

Overall I would recommend this movie to fans of historical films. The plot is fairly straightforward, so you can focus on watching the visuals instead.
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One of the greatest Polish movies ever made
denis88829 June 2006
I first saw Ogniem I Mieczem in Poland in 2000, where I was working and learning Polish. That is true that one has to know Polish well enough to perceive this magnificent epic drama, but at the same time this film was broad-casted in Russia, my homeland, dubbed into Russian, and many people watched it and loved it very much. I agree that you have probably to be Polish to understand this film, but this is not a must. All you need is some basic knowledge of the Polish – Russian – Ukrainian history of the 17th century. Terrible wars were waging all that time between Poland, Russia and Ukraine. Since there are three nations close to one another, that conflict made it all even worse, when true brothers were killing each other. Jerzy Hoffman is a real master of the historical movies; he had already achieved great popularity with Potop and Pan Wolodyjowski, two other films based as Ogniem I Mieczem on the novels of the Nobel Prize Winner Henryk Sienkiewicz. Thus, in OiM he managed to depict very tragic and romantic events on a really grand scale. The battle scenes are simply second to none, and you feel all that pain and suffering of people fighting there. The scene when the Ukrainian army under Bohdan Chmelnicki (played by the famous Ukrainian actor Bohdan Stupka) attacks continually the castle called Zbararz is impeccable. The casting job was also done marvelously. You cannot imagine anybody else but the Russian film star Alexander Domogarov in the part of Jurek Bohun, a riotous Ukrainian colonel. He plays with such unrestrained passion and vigor that, even being certainly a "baddie", he arouses a great sympathy and admiration. Isabella Scorupco is an excellent choice for the main female part (the love story in the movie is very touching and likewise very tragic), while Zbiegniew Zamachowski is great playing a small but brave feigner and loyal soldier. The famous Polish actor Marek Kondrat is there in a very small but highly emotional role of the king Jan Kazimierz, weak and powerless ruler whose heart aches for his Motherland. Also, pay attention to a merciless but brave Count Jeremi Wisniewiecki, who tried all his best to put an end to that horrible war. And it's impossible to forget another Ukrainian actress, Ruslana Pysanka in the role of the witch Horpyna – her performance is blood-chilling and at the same time very entertaining. In fact, all, even smaller parts of this crew (Pan Zagloba, Senator Kissiel, Tuhaj-Bej, Tatarczuk, Longin Podbipieta) are in their places and add much to the film. The nature scenes are another plus of this film; you cannot but admire the wide open plains, slow waters, deep forests and snowy mountains all shown with real gusto. Music adds another dimension, this mix of Russian, Polish and Ukrainian folk tunes serves its duty – it trills you, holds you all the time and stays in your ears long after the movie ended. I was thrilled after having watched this epic for the 1st time, and this feeling remains in me even after numerous re-runs. What I really love in this film is the main message that Mr. Hoffman made clear – a civil war is terrible, no aim and no word may justify this entire bloody massacre. The final scene when we learn that all this heroic struggle of the Poles was in fact in vain is deeply touching and I can understand all those who were weeping while watching. No, you don't have to be a Pole yourself to catch the main idea of the movie. You simply have to be a person with a big heart and sincere feelings to feel pain, suffering, strife and grief of the oppressed. This movie is a splendid work of art of the big master, having lost none of its emotional message with the run of time. Highly recommended
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Loved it!
ladyeuthanasia3 April 2005
If you love war epics, great sword work, and quirky characters, this movie is unbelievably good. They must have poured an incredible amount of money into the costuming, as well, because the entire production looked amazing. The film's length wore on me at times, but I loved those characters so much that I almost didn't want the film to end. If you don't like bloodshed, then don't watch a freakin' war movie. But if you do, you will not be disappointed by this film in the least. The battle sequences are at times stunning and all beautifully coordinated. I can't think of a single fight that didn't just completely kick bottom.

As for the yum factor, the bad guy Bohun is incredibly hot. He's like a Cossack Heathcliff. Both he and the "good guy" (there really aren't any good guys in this film) were droolable. The Princess was lovely, but too clean for all her adventures. That was the only real Hollywoodism of which the film can be convicted.
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Fascinating european movie!
arkudaki10 February 2002
Ogniem i Mieczem has amazed me!Indeed with such "small budget"(9 million dollars even for Polish cinema,europe is big) well Hoffman made a impressing historical movie. Nice battle scenes,costumes,landscapes,the characters are interesting especially villain and you can learn a lot from Polish-Ukrainian history. Something different from "common" western european or US history... Some will say that expected more...maybe true but remember..it is not 60 or 100 million budget movie with famous stars...it is european,pure polish production and has nothing to be jealous from hollywood. Actors did good work,as Hoffman in direction. of course plot can be weak in some parts but is not always easy to copy from a book,in detail and perfection especially Sienkiewicz ones. I recommend this movie,am happy to see historical european productions with other perspective and not in american way. You will not regret seeing that movie. I give it 9/10.
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Great music
zach-allen26 November 2003
Many comments have been made on the movie, the plot and the acting. I saw the movie at a private screening in Warsaw and loved it. Some of the scenes were well done, some great.

But the music....the music never leaves you. The variations on "Falcons" through the second half of the movie were wonderful. The scene on the river with the male chorus was haunting. THe music should have attracted more note than it did. But, not released in English, based on a super-nationalistic plot of dubious historic value, the movie was only going to appeal to a Polish audience, which it certainly did.

(For those who have commented on its excessive pro-Polish stance, they would be surprised to hear that, in Poland, the criticism was that it was too nice to Chmielnicki. Some said that Hoffman's Ukrainian wife had too much influence.)

The music is the lasting star of the movie. I have the CD and treasure it.
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Decent adventure movie, with a bit of history
pibwl16 August 2007
First of all, I am not delighted with Ogniem i Mieczem. But I think, it is a decent piece of adventure movie, which by the way, can also teach a bit about Poland's and Ukraine's history. There is one great thing, that Hoffman did - he modernized original Sienkiewicz's book, which was written in 1884 in very different circumstances. At that time, Poland was not existent country for almost 100 years, and the goal of Sienkiewicz's Trilogy was to raise Polish morale. That's why the Cossacks in the book are just enemies, evil and cruel, and their cause is not just, while the Poles (and loyal Ukrainians, like Prince Jeremi Wisniowiecki) are good, less cruel, and their cruelty is justified. Hoffman made a movie for modern times instead, when Poland and Ukraine are independent neighbors and they have to cooperate and built friendship among citizens (I must add here, that last local slaughters between citizens of two nations took part during World War II). In a movie, we see also Ukrainian point of view. Of course, the movie still remains Polish-centric, but it also shows Cossacks as people, who had they cause as well - what was guaranteed by engaging the Ukrainian actor (Bohdan Stupka) as Khmelnytsky.

Of the cast, Zbigniew Zamachowski as a fencing master Michal Wolodyjowski is disappointing, but I think he must have been under pressure of comparisons with highly praised Tadeusz Lomnicki, who played this character in earlier other two parts. And yes, Scorupco was a bad choice - after several days of marching through villages and bushes, she still looks like a cosmetic advertisement ("Despite all these things, my make-up still remains intact"). On the other hand, Daniel Olbrychski, playing a minor part of Tukhay-Bey, reached the mastery in my opinion.
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The greatest epic movie! Hollywood sucks!
Mah-Zie1 February 2004
It seems to me that all means of expression are guite justified in this movie. It forced me to read the whole source trilogy (Ogniem i mieczem, Potop, Pan Wolodyjowski) by Henryk Sienkiewicz. Characters are very humaly, realistic and true. Battles are very naturalistic.
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romance & war drama
prisc26 February 1999
Mostly for Polish viewers, some basic knowledge of 17th century Poland may be helpful if you want to understand the movie. It's about the rebellion of Ukrainian Cossacks against their lords - Polish nobility (it was before tsars conquered Ukraine). Polish prince Jeremi Wisniowiecki fights them with extreme atrocity but when they ally with Tatars, is forced to withdraw to the fortress of Zbaraz. These events form a background for the love between one of Polish commanders and girl he meets while carrying out some emissary mission for the prince. The movie is based on the novel "With Fire and Sword" (orig. "Ogniem i mieczem") by Henryk Sienkiewicz (Nobel award for "Quo Vadis"). This book is the first part of a trilogy, other parts have also been filmed. I think it's important to read the novel and see all mentioned movies - "The Deluge" (orig. "Potop") and "Pan Michael" (orig. "Pan Wolodyjowski").
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great movie of great director
rose-9217 December 1999
Everyone in Poland have been waiting for this movie for a long, long time. Some of us even twenty years. But these ones who have watched other parts of the Trilogy now are not disappointed (maybe not everyone but the most). Jerzy Hoffman made a really great movie. I agree that not every actress(read: Izabella Skorupka-this is her Polish name) was good in her role but thanks God we wouldn't have to watch many scenes with her. Of course we can forgive this to mister Hoffman. Everyone can make a mistake. But if we look at this work of art from the other side we can see many fantastic Polish actors like: Daniel Olbrychski(who played in every part of the Trilogy), Michal Zebrowski, Krzysztof Kowalewski or Andrzej Seweryn. They are really great in their roles. They are vivid and credible. I have to say that I cried watching this movie. There were two scenes at which my handkerchief was wet. First: when they found Skrzetuski crying in the village and second it was almost the last scene: when Jan finds out that Helena is alive. But one there is one thing which I hate in Hoffman's movies: his no-limits cruelty (for example in the movie "Pan Michael" he had drowned an alive horse in the stream). He loves to watch the viewers human's and animal's pain and suffering. I know this is in every Sienkiewicz's book but I just cannot accept it.I must confess that I haven't read any Sienkiewicz's book. At the cinema I can close my eyes and only listen but if I closed my eyes while reading a book I wouldn't find out what had happen. I know that many of you won't agree with my opinions(for example about Scorupco) but this is my point of view and everyone has free will and everyone can say how he looks on some things. PS. I have been learning English for 1,5 year so there can be a lot of mistakes-forgive me this.
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movie about love with elements of history and war
anna-usa2 December 2005
I strongly recommend this movie for everybody. It is a beautiful story about love. The movie is based on the book of a great Polish writer Henryk Sienkiewicz called " Ogniem i mieczem". There are some parts where the blood is present, if you know a little bit about history, you know that back then people used different tools than guns to kill so don't be surprised. It is not true that this movie is Hollywood movie. It's ridiculous that somebody would say something like that. Film does not promote violence or nothing else but sex which many Hollywood movies do. Also, you do not have to know Polish history to watch this movie. Movie has a good action. It tells a story and knowledge about Polish history is not prerequisite require to to be able to watch this movie and understand it. Additionally, many great Polish actors play main characters. Two examples are Izabella Scorupco and Michal Zebrowski.
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A really great movie about love, war, and patriotism.
Banana418 April 1999
This is really one of the greatest war movies I have ever seen!!! Jerzy Hoffman did a great job of tying together the hardships of love and war. I recommend this movie to anyone to anyone who enjoys anything from action to romance (and even comedy!). My only complaint: a long running time and the jokes aren't as funny in English as they are in Polish.
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For Polish patriots only
jeffbertucen@hotmail.com23 October 2002
Granted that I saw this movie in a Sydney cinema packed with Poles (including my Polish wife sitting next to me), the number of weeping expats at the final credits suggested that I needed at least some Polish blood to fully appreciate the experience. Objectively, O i M is a handsomely mounted costume piece with good attention to military details and minor roles (Pan Zagloba in particular), but is let down by lack of polish (no pun intended) and a number of unintentionally hilarious touches such as Scorupco's mile-long plaits and Daniel Olbrychski chewing the scenery at every opportunity. Even with subtitles, the historical narrative remains biased and confusing, and the whole enterprise is infused with an almost quaint Polish naivete and prudishness (except for the depiction of graphic violence, of course). Is it any worse however, than 'Glory' or 'Gettysburg' however? Probably not. 6 out of 10
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Not Polish but definitely overwhelmed me!
sunwaytrading20008 July 2014
I'm actually Chinese but I found a huge interest in Polish history and I found this film, I decided to watch it. I have to say it's one of my favorite films. The costumes, amour were all accurate and it's set in "The deluge" when Poland was attacked by Swedes, Russians and the Ukrainian uprising. This film was historically accurate which I love since I have a strong interest in history. Another thing is the music, the music was truly amazing. I loved the charges the Polish Winged Hussars did and it went incredibly well with the music. After watching this I guess I'll have to move onto other famous Polish films, I can definitely see all the work and effort put in for a movie that was made more than a decade ago. Well done Poland! :)
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About the soul of lost time
Vincentiu26 July 2009
A beautiful film with the flavor of old historical movies. Commanding, pompous, made for fascinate and create the taste of a land.In same time, an exercise to make a good Sienkiewicz adaptation. And to impose a Pole product in the fight against American busters. Jerzy Hoffman is, in this case, a real winner. The stake of film is not only artistic value but gentleness of national sensibilities. The respect for truth. The science to travel in obscure and strange past of an East Europe who believe in old gods, who discover in past the panacea of present frustrations. Fights and love story, costumes and soft nuances, conversations in Ukrainean and music. Wall against the crisis and bricks for barbaric scenarios. Fires. Blood. And gestures. Parts of lost time. In the skin of hope to be in the another era. A splendid film, a interesting escape.
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It was OK but you need some background information
alexfromhorn20 June 2010
At first I have to say I watched it in German under the title "Kreuzritter 5", so there was a German dubbing and it was bad, which really destroyed some of it's atmosphere. I know the story and I read the book by Henryk Sienkiewicz and I really enjoyed it but I don't think that the movie could retell that epic story in a good way, especially the atmosphere and historical backgrounds. I think the costumes were really good, besides the beards and hair, they looked so artificial. The acting was partially good especially by Scorupco and Szebrowski but there were a lot of actors who weren't that good at all... There also was a problem of historic introduction, in Germany you don't get to know a little thing about eastern European history so my friend who I watched that movie with me was really confused about cossacks and tartans and all those people whom he never really heard of. And didn't knew anything about their relation to Poland or the rest of Europe - so especially this part gave that movie a big minus. The fighting-scenes were less than mediocre. The music could have been better too, it missed some epicness. It could be really much shorter cause it doesn't tell that much story at all.
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Bloody For Nothing
Mladen Radic9 July 2001
There is a scene at the beginning of this motion picture when one of the leading characters says that he had made a vow. A vow that he would remain virgin until he cuts three heads with one move of the sword. When you hear that, you know what you can expect. Is good to see a European movie which is directed perfectly, a spectacle with many action scenes, excellent actors and three hours in it's running time, is good to. But hey, people, where is the plot, where are the characters?! Oh, gee, I knew we forgot something!

So, what's wrong? First, the plot. Story of battles between Cossacs and Polish in 15th century and a love story put there in the middle. All right, we know that all sides hate their enemies, but it's nothing new. My country was in war till five years ago, I know that war is awful, but `With fire and sword' is not an anti-war movie. Oh, no, and this is its second and biggest problem. Our `heroes' are introduced at the beginning of the movie, they are all nice & courageous and they fight against Cossacs and Turkish. And what do they do? They kill everyone, they torture, they act exactly like their enemies. So why should I trust them? They don't feel even a bit of pity, a bit of remorse, they don't have a single doubt about that if they should fight and kill. They go, they fight, they kill - and there are rivers of blood running on the screen. Cossacs and Turkish are shown like beasts, most of them are gays and there is even a sort of witch-lesbian(!) Our `heroes' are perfectly straight, they have even a beautiful Izabella Scorupco on their side, and they cut heads with sadistic pleasure. And they don't consider another option. Not even for a moment.

Is that the message of the movie?
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Not that great
Michal-144 December 1999
This film is for people who know a lot about the history for Poland. I didn't really enjoy watching this film for many reasons. First of all, most of the scenes were too long or too short. There was excess death scenes, blood, that were not needed in this movie. This is a great example of Hollywood movies. There was no character development. There are great battles and a lot about the history of Poland. Many people have to read the book that the film is based on first, then they'll get the whole picture.
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One of the biggest disappointments in polish movie history
rramzess4 October 2001
Hoffman, the director, is well-known in polish cinema for such movies like "Pan Wolodyjowski" or Oscar-nominated "Potop".These two movies were based on book by polish novelist Henryk Sienkiewicz. He wrote also "Ogniem i mieczem". Adaptation of this book was heavily commented in polish media. The expectations were big. And then came the premiere. Spotlights, well-known people from show business, politics, culture. And producers of course, this movie was the most expensive movie in polish history (now the first is "Quo Vadis"). All these people had to make the best of a bad business. Movie is boring, which is absolutely no acceptable for entertainment production. It doesn't have good plot, it is made from about 5 very light-related episodes (if you have seen "Hannibal" you know what I mean). The characters are or white like January snow, more saint then Jesus, or absolutely without expression. Whats more, their behavior is unlogic and unnecessary.Simply stupid. Battles, if you compare it with e.g. "Braveheart" or even others Hoffman's movies,, are childish (polish army consist of ten horses). In one word - disaster. Only music is good. If you want to see polish historical movie, go better for older Hoffman's work.
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A bit disappointing...
misiek28 February 1999
The most awaited movie in Polish movies history. The biggest budget. The most professional marketing action previous to the Polish movie. The best actors. 3 hours long. Full cinemas. The best opening weekend. And still there is something missing...

The movie (maybe it's just because of the nature of Sienkiewicz book...) seems to lack a screenplay, it is quite chaotic and not comprehensive for the ones, who did not read a book. Scorupco as Helena is even worse than my sister would be - sham, boring and acting-less. Some scenes are childish, the other ones cruel, brutal and full of blood. Some jokes are clever, some are stupid. And somehow I just could not get involved in the action...

But forget about the disadvantages. The acting was perfect - Zebrowski, Kowalewski, Zamachowski, Domogarow and Stupka deliver exceptional performances. The huge budget pays for itself - scenography, costumes, battle scenes are magnificent. Some dialogues and jokes are real gems. Hoffman has dreamed of directing the movie for 20 years and his dream is fulfilled at last. We have expected a masterpiece - maybe we shouldn't have...

I expected more, so it's a bit disappointing, but... 7/10, in spite of all.
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rekeda13 December 2001
I watched this movie after a friend told me that this was the most expensive movie in the Polish history. Probably that is true, but the movie does not look like a piece of art.

Although the movie does not specifically targets Polish viewers, others would hardly watch it - I bet few people would spend three hours trying to tie up numerous lines altogether. The movie has two key lines - a war between Polish nobles and Ukrainian Cossacks and a love story between one of the Polish officers and girl, that he met.

The movie does not look like an action nor as an entertainment. But for the historical movie, it came out to be very straightforward - the characters are either too good or deadly evil and completely dump. There was too much blood on the screen. Even some of the details are really excessive. There was one guy out there who pledged to remain virgin until he axes three heads at once by his sward. What a hilarious pal! Eventually he somehow managed to do that, but .is that a historical movie or a show from the Worldwide Wrestling Federation all-star cast?

Of course I should say that most of the actors were really good. But you can not save a bad plot with even the best actors in the world.
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Passable historical drama
Björn-59 July 2011
I had high expectations when I started watching the movie, but its background as a TV mini-series were soon painfully evident. Flat lighting, choppy editing (several scenes became confusing, as it was evident that something had been cut), and poor pyrotechnics. The battle scenes were OK, but not as spectacular as some claim. The explosions are just huge fireballs, looking like something from a poor WW2 action movie. The main male leads are rather good, but the "love at first sight" scenario is a silly cliché. Izabella Scorupco is pleasing to the eye, but not much more. The version I watched (the Scandinavian DVD release) has the Polish over-dubbing of other languages than Polish. This was the first time I encountered that particular feature, and hearing a male voice with all the enthusiasm of a weather forecaster doing the dialogue of both male and female roles was a bit distracting, to say the least. The scenes with feasting were taken out of the book "How to stage period feasts Hollywood style", but at least they didn't have food fights or dogs prowling the tables. It is recommended to read up on the historical background before watching, as anyone not familiar with Eastern European 17th century history will soon find him/herself confused. All in all, it is a rather passable historical drama made for TV, but don't expect greatness.
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jamigre10 June 2003
Being Polish, I was excited to finally see this film. Family, freinds, and others explained at length how wonderful the film was, and how accurately it portrayed the novel of the same title by Sienkiewicz. Well in my honest oppinion, they were all utterly wrong, and I dont mean just a smidgen either. The film was horrid, it was a poor adaptation of the book, the cinematography resembled that of a C student at your local community college, and Scorupco in the lead was, to put it bluntly, horrid. I wholeheartedly believe that this film could have been much much better, and at times I even found myself laughing at its poor quality. Well as they say c'est la vie.
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ihor12 January 2002
This movie has very little to do with actual history and is, as one might expect, since it's a book by Sinkiewicz, ridiculously one-sided. Good Poles, bad Cossacks (Ukrainians). A very much needed fairy tale in the times when Sinkiewicz wrote it, as he intended to rise patriotism in a nation that had to find its identity again. But why would a movie be made now, when what's needed for both countries (Poland and Ukraine) is an attempt to show common history from neutral perspective? Enough lies and tales have been written.

P.S. A little piece of interesting info - "Bohdan Khmelnytsky (Chmielnicki)" a.k.a. Bohdan Stupka is a Minister of Culture of Ukraine. Ruslana Pysanka (Horyna the whitch) is a weather reporter on one of Ukraine's channels, Inter. Gained a lot of weight recently, LOL. And a piece of historical info - Ivan Bohun (the evil guy) in reality was a Scottish nobleman turned Cossack...

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Polish Master Hoffman puts the likes of Peter Jackson to shame, making THE most gorgeous definitive swashbuckling epic for a mere $8 million
a-a-d11 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Old master director Jerzy Hoffman makes $8 million look like Peter Jackson's $800 million, and then some. Lord of the Rings looks juvenile and cheap in comparison. The massive battles are more massive. The costumes, weaponry, armor, and horses are real and period-correct. The hack and slash sword fights look like sword fights, not superhero ballet, but are all the better for it.

Think of a sort of medieval "Three Musketeers", but bigger, brighter, and better, in the final days of knights, swords, lances, and chivalry. It is a tale of love, honor, passion, and two men's fight for a woman, to the backdrop of civil war that began in much the same way.

The year is 1647. The historical backdrop is what begins as a personal feud, when a Polish nobleman, Sheriff Chaplinsky, burns and loots his rival Ukrainian Cossack commander Bogdan Khmelnitsky's estate, whips his son from a prior marriage to within an inch of his life, and kidnaps and forcibly marries his lover and bride-to-be. It turns into civil war over equal rights for Ukrainian nobility. Khmelnitsky (played by the then-Minister of Culture of the Ukraine) is laughed out of a Polish courthouse, given an insultingly meager compensation for damages, and told that his woman is now her kidnapper's and rapist's legal wife, in the eyes of God and men. When he protests and calls for justice, he is asked if a Cossack doesn't have a sword to cut out his own justice, and almost killed. Unwittingly, the Polish protagonist saves him, when he sees the well-dressed proud man assaulted by a gang of lowlifes masquerading as Tartars.

Angry, slighted, shamed, bitter, and insulted, feeling that he has been denied the rights given to him by God and King, he heads out to the Sich, the Cossack's stronghold. There, he campaigns on a platform of Cossack rights to equal those of Polish nobility, is elected Warlord (hetman), and leads the wild, freedom-loving, and fiercely independent Orthodox Cossack host in rebellion against the Catholic Polish crown, which will ultimately end (off-screen) with the Ukraine's secession to the Russian Empire.

(just background historical info above; possibly some MILD SPOILERS below)

As this bloody war burns in the background, four Polish knights led by the protagonist, dashing young Hussar (heavy lancer) officer Jan Skrzetuski, and Ukrainian Colonel Bohun, perhaps the most daring and charming antagonist rogue of all cinema ever, fight their own private feud. At the center of the conflict is lovely Ukrainian maiden Helena, who although promised by her family to the dark and passionate Cossack Bohun, falls for and chooses our handsome Polish knight Jan. Bohun learns of this, and in a murderous rage slaughters her relatives, then pursues her across war-torn Ukraine. Between gorgeous massive battle scenes in excellent period costume, Jan and his sidekicks clash over and over with the tragically obsessed Bohun for Helena, find her, lose her, regain her, and are themselves imprisoned, released, escaped, and ransomed, in a film full of daring escapes, edge-of-your-seat duels, shootouts, and all manner of other swashbuckling staples, with even a bit of wholesome cross-dressing involved.

Our hero Jan is aided by his old friend and sometime rival Michal Wolodyjowski, called the Little Knight, the diminutive first sword of Poland. With them tags along morbidly obese, homeless, and impoverished cowardly drunkard, ex-knight, and experienced cheat old Pan Zagloba. Later, this company is joined by the aptly-named towering 7-foot walking anachronism Longinus Podbipieta, and aging oaf of a knight, sworn to celibacy until he chops off 3 men's heads in one swing (and he does). Armed with a gigantic ancient family two-hander passed from father to son since the Crusades, so heavy he alone can swing it, he wanders Poland and the Ukraine to fulfill his quest and finally marry. With them also is Jan's squire, a no-good thieving opportunist and coward who never lets anyone forget that, though now impoverished and forced to serve, he too comes from noble blood. Again and again, they run afoul of the reckless and fearless rogue Cossack Bohun, part knight and part brigand, harsh, hateful, depressive master of the banzai charge, ever fighting and winning hopeless battles, and laughing death in the face every step of the way.

Watch this motley crew fight, drink, swindle, and flee through a treacherous landscape of civil war, battles, sieges, duels, and skirmishes, overflowing with barbaric Cossacks, mercenary Tartars (Mongols), stalwart and merciless Polish knights, sadistic, self-serving, and rather homosexual Turkish beis (lords), dashing brigands, cowardly peasants, and rows of corpses hung on trees for no greater crime than being in the wrong place, with the wrong people, at the wrong time. There are even men dying on stakes, a lesbian pagan witch guarded by a blind sharpshooter that she keeps for a dog, and a long nude maiden bathing scene for the viewer's pleasure.

This is THE epic swashbuckling tale, the kind of film you remember 10 years after seeing it. A must watch, even if you've never been partial to the genre, and possibly your new favorite movie ever if you like this sort of stuff!
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One of my All-Time Top 10 Movies
Pantera-317 May 2006
When Jerzy Hoffman completed the filming of this, the first of the stories in Henryk Sienkiewicz's epic Trilogy, he was actually completing a 30-year labor of love. Although it is the first of the three stories, "Ogniem i Mieczem" (Eng. "With Fire and Sword") was filmed last. (This allowed Polish actor Daniel Olbrychski to appear in this film as the father of the character he portrayed in "Pan Wolodyjowki", the finale of the saga, in 1969. Olbrychski also played the lead in "Potop" (Eng. "The Deluge"), part two of the trilogy, in 1974. I believe he is the only actor to have appeared in all three parts.) After seeing all four films ("The Deluge" is so long that, on film as in the novel, it was split into two parts), I was inspired to read the books, and enjoyed them immensely.

Maybe it's because I saw it first, or appreciate the more modern production values, or like the story better, but this is my favorite of the films. It instantly became one of my all-time favorite movies.

If you love the tales of Alexander Dumas, then this film is definitely for you. It has swashbuckling "all for one and one for all" heroes, a beautiful princess, sword fights and battles, two delightful comic relief sidekicks (although one comes across far better in the book), a vivid and colorful assortment of characters (and what faces!), a lovely score... well, I could go on and on.

Far better, though, that you sit down with a copy of this and just enjoy it for yourself.
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