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With Fire and Sword
Directed by Jerzy Hoffman
Produced by Jerzy Frykowski, Jerzy Hoffman, Jerzy R. Michaluk
Written by Jerzy Hoffman, Andrzej Krakowski
Starring Izabella Scorupco, Michał Żebrowski, Aleksandr Domogarov
Music by Krzesimir Dębski
Cinematography Grzegorz Kędzierski
Editing by Marcin Bastkowski, Cezary Grzesiuk
Release date(s) 1999
Running time 175 min.
Language Polish, Ukrainian

With Fire and Sword is the English title of the Polish film Ogniem i Mieczem, a historical drama directed by Jerzy Hoffman, released in 1999. The film is based on a novel of the same name, the first part in The Trilogy of Henryk Sienkiewicz. At the time of its filming it was the most expensive Polish film ever made (since surpassed by Quo Vadis, 2001).



The story is set in the Ukrainian lands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of the 17th century during the Khmelnytsky Uprising. A Polish knight Skrzetuski and a Cossack otaman Bohun 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 the 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, conversely to the book, does not finish with the great face-off in the form of the Battle of Beresteczko.

Critical reception

The movie has been criticized for introducing some factual inaccuracies.[1] 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, hetman Stefan Potocki, was only 24 years old; despite that the battle, though eventually lost by the Poles, lasted for nearly three weeks.[1]

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".[2] 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.[3]

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 criticised 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".[4]

Political background

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.[5].[6]


See also


  1. ^ a b Battle of Yellow Waters (Żółte Wody), 1648
  2. ^ Yuri Shevchuk. With Fire and Sword" depicts Kozak war against Poland The Ukrainian Weekly. May 23, 1999.
  3. ^ Między "OGNIEM i MIECZEM", Wprost 7/1999 (846) (in Polish)
  4. ^ Literatura a film. Adaptacje i ekranizacje dzieł lieratury.
  5. ^ THE DAY WEEKLY DIGEST #41, 2 November 1999
  6. ^ Na ekrany kin wschodzi "Taras Bulba" Władimira Bortki,

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