Netflix braces itself for national backlash from diehard fans over its remake of legendary film Znachor
Netflix has set the cat among the pigeons by announcing that it is working on a remake of one of the most famous productions in the history of Polish cinema.
Znachor (The Quack) is an update of Jerzy Hoffman’s film of the same name, which has enjoyed a special place in the hearts of Poles since its release in 1982.
Hinting at the judgement that the remake is bound to generate, Netflix announced on its Facebook page yesterday: "Ladies and gentlemen, Your Honour, this is Leszek Lichota as Rafal Wilczur. Znachor is coming to Netflix in the second half of the year."
Both films are adaptations of Tadeusz Dolęga-Mostowicz's famous novel from 1937 which tells the story of the fate of Professor Rafal Wilczur, an outstanding surgeon, who is abandoned by his wife and daughter.
He is beaten up and loses his memory, finally settling in a small village under an assumed name. He gains fame when he operates on the misaligned legs of the miller's son, becoming known as a ‘znachor’, a kind of rural witch doctor.
Many years later, he reconnects with his daughter in one of the most moving scenes ever filmed in Polish cinema.
Hoffman’s film is such a favourite among Poles that news that Netflix is preparing a new version was always going to generate strong opinions. Some responded positively, claiming that an updated version on a streaming service will reach a younger audience.
Others, meanwhile, believe that Jerzy Hoffman's 1980s version is enough and hard to improve on.
The new version’s director, Michał Gazda, admitted his fears about taking on such a cinematic legend: “Dołęga-Mostowicz's novel and its screen adaptation from 40 years ago is, without exaggeration, a legend of Polish culture.
“And now we - thanks to Netflix - had the opportunity to come face-to-face with this legend, which was undoubtedly a great directorial privilege, but also - let's not hide it - a creative concern. After all, we were playing with a national treasure."
Meanwhile, Leszek Lichota, who plays the lead role of Rafał Wilczur, said, “I am from the generation that grew up on the story of Professor Wilczur. I am very happy that I could impersonate such an important figure for Polish culture."
“Costume films are always a challenge, but I think the director and the whole crew wonderfully reflected the aesthetics of the 1920s and 1930s. A world where honour, hard work, empathy and romantic love mattered," he added.
Tadeusz Dolęga-Mostowicz originally wrote Znachor in the 1930s as a film script. After it was twice rejected by producers, he decided to turn the ill-fated work into a novel. The story was printed in episodes, in daily newspapers and quickly aroused great interest among readers and producers, who offered the author large sums of money for the right to screen it.
It was first made as a film in 1937, directed by Michał Waszyński, and was considered one of the best Polish productions of the pre-war era.
Forty-four years later, in 1982, the story was adapted for the screen by Jerzy Hoffman, with the lead role going to Jerzy Bińczycki.
The film has reached a status almost akin to Home Alone, with Poles not being able to imagine Christmas without it being screened on television.
The character of Wilczur's daughter Marysia, played in Hoffman's film by Anna Dymna, will be played in the new version of Znachor by Maria Kowalska, her debut in a leading role.
Count Czyński will be played by Ignacy Liss, which in Hoffman's film was famously played by Tomasz Stockinger.