Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Wiedźmin – Crossroads (TV Episode) – review

Director: Marek Brodzki

First aired: 2002

Contains spoilers

The first thing to state is that the illustrative DVD case is not directly related to this episode of the Polish TV show Wiedźmin. The Hexer film, which I have on DVD, is built as a cut and paste from the series, but does not include footage from the vampire aspect of this episode. To catch this episode you will have to have access to Polish TV or come across someone who does. It seems a shame to me that we, outside Poland, have not had proper opportunity to get the full show as, what it lacks in budget, it makes up for in story.

This is based on the stories of Geralt of Rivia, witcher (killer of monsters), and based on the stories of Andrzej Sapkowski. We looked at the first book here and the subsequent PC game here. This episode is called Crossroads (in English) and was a crossroads in the series’ story. The aspect (taken from the Last Wish) regarding a vampire is over the first half of the episode.

Geralt (Michal Zebrowski) enters a tavern, orders a beer and asks for a room. When asked about money he produces a coin that the bartender does not recognise. A local comes over and accuses him of taking it. Geralt kills the locals. When guards come in and try to disarm him he agrees to go with them but casts a spell on them to prevent them taking his weapon.

an authority figure
Faced with someone in authority, he is told that the deaths and the attempt at hexing carry a death sentence. He states he is allowed to defend himself and produces a notice he lifted from a crossroads. He is asked to show his sign and reveals his witcher pendant. The notice is a call for help from a witcher, with an offer of 3000 orens. Geralt asks for the background.

King Foltest
14 years ago the old king died and his son, Foltest, took his place. Adda, sister of Foltest, became pregnant but died in childbirth. She, still heavy with the child which had also died, was buried in the castle crypt. Seven years later the child was born and a strzyga emerged from the castle. When Geralt asks who the father was it is clearly intimated that it was Foltest himself.

Michal Zebrowski as Geralt
Geralt is confused, some men with bows and axes should be able to deal with a strzyga. It transpires that the king has been told that, should someone stay in the tomb with the strzyga until the dawn (later it transpires it is the third cockcrow specifically) the curse will be lifted. Since then he has made it clear his daughter is not to be killed. Other witchers have been to the castle (the court have decamped to a second castle and abandoned the one the vampire haunts) and one was given an offer by wise men of the court to ‘accidentally’ kill her and they would compensate him – to date there has been no success.

giving a bestial roar
It is three nights till the full moon – when the strzyga prowls, showing the more traditional linkage between the moon and vampires that can occur – but Geralt wants to see the tomb. She is up and about and he finds a doll in her sarcophagus, which he takes. His theft causes her to cry out to the night, he responds by giving a bestial roar.

claw marks
He meets with Foltest and the king asks whether she can be saved, Geralt believes so – but only on the night of the full moon. The king asks to keep the doll, but Geralt says he will need it. He also discovers that one peasant escaped her by running to a well – indicating some form of hydrophobia on the vampire’s behalf. He has claw marks down his back.

A visitation from Foltest, in secret, tells Geralt that if he were to accept the offer to kill his daughter, and pretend that he had no choice, the king would not look kindly on the act. Geralt makes it clear that he wishes to save her but will defend himself. The king actually asks him then to kill her if she cannot be saved or, if saved, if she cannot be normal. Geralt has warned him that she would be a fourteen year old physically but likely have a mental age of around three.

Before nightfall the perpetrator of the curse – a noble who loved and was spurned by Adda – tries to bribe Geralt into leaving and ends up as strzyga bait for his trouble. He is killed by the creature, who is bestial in appearance and can leap great distances. Geralt holds her off and, eventually, gives her the doll – proving that the creature can be gentle. He takes the sarcophagus, sealing himself in and keeping her out.

human form
In the morning she is a girl (Magdalena Górska) once more, though she has blood at her mouth. He checks her but her hand is still in strzyga form and wounds him terribly before the cock crows again and she is fully human. He has saved the girl but lost the use of his right arm. However a grateful king has paid him 5000 orens and arranged for him to go to a temple of healing.

a kind of magic
The story is pretty much lifted directly from the book and Michal Zebrowski is rather good as Geralt. The programme does suffer from low budget and, whilst the countryside looks lovely, some if the interior shots are rather samey. The story could have been stretched longer, with the episode entirely dedicated to the story, more atmosphere injected in and more backstory offered.

Part of my enjoyment came from knowing the story already – both from the book and from the fact that a sequel to this tale makes up a part of the game’s plot. One wonders how someone who didn’t know the story would fare. That said it is a nice use of unusual vampire type.

So, quality wise a mixed bag. All in all 5 out of 10 seems fair for the vampire part of the episode, I actually rate the series higher and wish it were more readily available as a series, rather than the butchered film DVD. The series’ imdb page is here.

The Hexer Film:


RoseOfTransylvania said...

Sounds...well, not masterpiece, but like they had some really nice vampire lore.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

the series is rather good all told... that's because the story is solid - I'd recommend the book I linked if you want vampires in a fantasy setting