Pros: Excellently conveyed atmosphere of Sapkowski’s books; attention to surroundings; soundtrack in the spirit of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt; good camera work; successful selection of actors; Polish voice acting Cons: Weak script; fencing and special effects leave much to be desired Pół Wieku Poezji Później – Alzur’s Legacy / “After half a century of poetry”
Directed by Jakub Nurzynski
Starring: Mariusz Drezhek (Lambert), Magdalena Ruzańska (Triss Merigold), Zbigniew Zamachowski (Lutik), Marcin Bubowka (Julian), Kamilla Kaminska (Ornella), Janusz Szpieglewski (Agaius), Andrzej Strzeleski (headman), etc.
Studio Witcher Fan Film
Year of release 2019
The history of the creation of Pół Wieku Poezji Później – Alzur’s Legacy / “After Half a Century of Poetry” begins in 2017, when Polish enthusiasts decided to make a fan short film based on “The Witcher” with minor characters from the original saga in the main roles. The authors launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, and having collected only half of the requested amount ($8,370 out of $15,000), they began work. Over two years, the running time increased from 30 to 102 minutes, and the budget “reached” 100 thousand zlotys (about $26,000).
The full-length film appeared freely available on YouTube on December 7, 2019, so at the end of the review you will find not the usual trailer, but the whole film. A version with a Polish track and subtitles in several languages, including Russian, is available. The text in the film is simple, so you can watch it without subtitles, especially for bilinguals like Ukrainians. Polish voice acting gives the film authenticity; it’s not for nothing that many people preferred to play the Polish version of The Witcher.
The main characters of “After Half a Century of Poetry” are the no longer so young witcher Lambert, the sorceress Triss Merigold, well known to the players, and Julian, the illegitimate son of Dandelion. The trio, led by Triss, goes in search of the sorceress Ornella, who stole the notorious book of Alzur – a manual for creating witchers, but they themselves are being hunted. The mutant Agaius, another creation of Alzur, consistently destroys all the witchers, the last of which is Lambert. Of the other characters familiar to fans of the series, Buttercup himself appears in the film, played by the same Polish actor and bard Zbigniew Zamachowski, who starred in this role in the 2001 Polish film.
In general, the selection of performers in Pół Wieku Poezji Później would be the envy of the Netflix series. Zbigniew Zamachowski made an excellent Dandelion Sr., and Marcin Bubowka made an excellent Dandelion Junior, although he is clearly younger than he should be according to the books. Magdalena Ruzańska looks just like the canonical book Triss Merigold, and Mariusz Drezhek would have made not only Lambert, but even Geralt, if the authors had set themselves the goal of introducing the White Wolf into the narrative.
In general, “After Half a Century of Poetry” pleases with the very careful attitude of the authors to the primary source, which is the books here. Although it couldn’t do without some inclusion of the game canon. Lambert wears both swords in a bundle, like Geralt in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, on his neck he wears the wolf’s head medallion familiar to us from the game, and some quotes made it into the film straight from the game.
Despite a very modest budget, the filmmakers managed to perfectly convey the atmosphere of Sapkowski’s book series. Polish nature looks very organic in the role of Temeria, and the scenes in the tavern and the village of Molodye Popki were filmed in some museum of folk architecture like the Kyiv Pirogovo. Plus, several episodes were filmed in the ruins of old castles, of which there are also plenty in Poland. It turned out simple, but very sincere, also thanks to the authors’ attention to the costumes of the characters, even minor ones, and small props.
The camera work is also pleasing, including the use of drones and landscape photography. And the opening flight in the tavern, filmed with one camera, may be the envy of some high-budget films.
The situation is a little worse with fencing. In most scenes, real metal swords are used in the frame, rather than light fake swords, which, on the one hand, has a positive effect on their perception, on the other hand, it does not allow actors who are not very skilled in fencing to achieve the ease with which they handle weapons heroes of books and games. The fight scenes are shot mostly in darkness and with jagged camerawork, and they’re not very impressive. But the effects of the spells that Triss and Ornella cast are not as bad as one might expect.
The excellent soundtrack from Katarzyna Bonikowska, which clearly echoes the compositions from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, deserves definite praise. It turned out very atmospheric and in keeping with the theme.
By and large, the only serious problem with “After Half a Century of Poetry” is the script. The story of the hunt for Ornella and the confrontation between Lambert and Agaius is worthy of a short film; a full-length film is not needed here. It is very simple and unpretentious, but due to the fact that the length of the film has grown, the narrative turned out to be drawn out and full of unnecessary scenes. It’s the same with dialogues. Some turned out to be very atmospheric and revealing of the characters, while others sound downright stupid, simply filling an empty space.
However, I don’t want to criticize a film made by fans for only $26 thousand. It is very heartfelt, head and shoulders above the Polish film and series of 2001, and will certainly appeal to fans of books and games about The Witcher. We remind you that it is better to watch Pół Wieku Poezji Później in Polish, you can with Russian subtitles, although there are some problems with timings.
Oh, and don’t miss the post-credits scene, there are, of course, certain problems with special effects, but another character familiar to readers/players appears.
Well, now we are waiting for Netflix’s response. Let’s see what they spent about $30 million on.
PS Bonus – Ukrainian short film “The Witcher: Polyuvannya” with Geralt, Dandelion, Triss, Yen and Ciri. It is, of course, inferior to the Polish film, but the female characters turned out to be quite canonical.
A lovingly made fan film in the Witcher universe, which can easily compete with many professional projects