LanguagePolish, Ukrainian English subtitles Release date1999 (1999) Based onWith Fire and Sword
by Henryk Sienkiewicz WriterJerzy Hoffman, Henryk Sienkiewicz (novel) Film seriesTrilogy of Henryk Sienkiewicz CastIzabella Scorupco (Helena Kurcewiczówna), Aleksandr Domogarov (Jurko Bohun), Michal Zebrowski (Jan Skrzetuski), Krzysztof Kowalewski (Jan Onufry Zagloba), Bogdan Stupka (Bohdan Chmielnicki), Andrzej Seweryn (Jeremi Wisniowecki) Similar moviesCossack movies, Story by Henryk Sienkiewicz, Set in Poland
With fire and sword
With Fire and Sword (Polish: Ogniem i Mieczem; Ukrainian: Вогнем і Мечем, Vohnem i Mechem) is a 1999 Polish historical drama film directed by Jerzy Hoffman. The film is based on the novel With Fire and Sword, the first part in The Trilogy of Henryk Sienkiewicz. At the time of its filming it was the most expensive Polish film ever made.
The story is set in Ukrainian lands of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland during the Khmelnytsky Uprising of 1648-51. A Polish knight, Skrzetuski, and a Cossack otaman Bohun, both fall in love with the same woman, Helena. Their rivalry unfolds against the backdrop of a Cossack uprising led by Bohdan Khmelnytsky, aimed at reclaiming control of the land from the hands of the Polish nobles. Historic events form a framework for an action and character driven plot, and fictional characters mingle with historic ones. The movie, as the book, culminates with the savage siege of Zbarazh.
Izabella Scorupco as Helena Kurcewiczówna
Michał Żebrowski as Jan Skrzetuski
Aleksandr Domogarov as Jurko Bohun
Krzysztof Kowalewski as Jan Onufry Zagłoba
Bohdan Stupka as Bohdan Khmelnytsky
Andrzej Seweryn as Jeremi Wiśniowiecki
Zbigniew Zamachowski as Michał Wołodyjowski
Wiktor Zborowski as Longinus Podbipięta
Daniel Olbrychski as Toğay bey (Tuhaj Bej)
Marek Kondrat as John II Casimir
Wojciech Malajkat as Rzędzian
Ewa Wisniewska as Kurcewiczowa
Ruslana Pysanka as Horpyna
Gustaw Holoubek as Adam Kisiel
Andrzej Kopiczynski as Zaćwilichowski
Maciej Kozlowski as Maxym Kryvonis
Adam Ferency as İslâm III Giray
Gustaw Lutkiewicz as Yakiv Barabash
Dmytro Myrhorodsky as Koshovy otaman
Jerzy Bonczak as Daniel Czapliński
Krzysztof Gosztyla as Jerzy Ossoliński
Szymon Kobylinski as Mikołaj Ostroróg
The movie has been criticized for introducing some factual inaccuracies not found in the source material. One of the least accurate sections of the film is Hoffman's presentation of the first battle between the Poles and the Cossacks - the Battle of Zhovti Vody. The movie suggests that the Poles were quickly routed by Cossacks and the Polish elite cavalry (husaria) showed needless bravado in the face of unfavorable weather conditions. In reality, the Poles were not only greatly outnumbered, especially after they were deserted by all the Cossacks who had switched sides and joined Bohdan Khmelnytsky, but also their commander, Stefan Potocki, was only 24 years old; despite that the battle, though eventually lost by the Poles, lasted for nearly three weeks.
The original book is often deemed to be nationalistic and Ukrainophobic, especially in Ukraine. The movie on the other hand has been praised for its depiction of Ukraine and Ukrainians as "vivid rather than monochromatic; they are multi-dimensional, eliciting more than one feeling of, say, fascination or dislike". However, some Polish reviewers felt that the movie emphasized Cossacks' successes and positive traits while diminishing those of the Poles, in the spirit of political correctness.
The director was aware of the controversies and criticism. He was quoted as saying: Sienkiewicz's book is still considered anti-Ukrainian by some Ukrainians. I understand that problem, but when I was in Kiev at a conference of Ukrainian intellectuals ... many people with whom I spoke had read the novel closely and they quoted whole passages where Sienkiewicz criticized the Polish nobles as strongly as the Cossacks. For both sides it was clear that the result of this tragic conflict was the eventual demise of both the Commonwealth and the Sich. I am well aware that the film may agitate those in Ukraine who blame everything on the Poles, and in Poland those who blame all that was bad on the Ukrainians. My film will certainly not convince any radicals. ... My film finishes with the final words of Sienkiewicz's novel: "Hatred poisoned the hearts of two brother nations".
Although the original novel is the first part of the Trilogy, the film was the last part of Hoffman's version of the trilogy to be made, following The Deluge, which was filmed in 1974, and Colonel Wolodyjowski, which was filmed in 1969. This might have been due to political tension between Polish People's Republic and Ukrainian SSR, as filming a novel taking up a politically loaded subject of Polish-Ukrainian relations (another stalled film project was Taras Bulba by Nikolai Gogol) was deemed undesired by the Soviet Union.
The film turned out to be a box office success grossing PLN 105,089,363($26,366,071) against a budget of PLN 24,000,000($8,000,000).