High Water a Polish hit series on Netflix

10 million views in just a dozen days after its premiere! HIGH WATER, the latest series directed by Jan Holoubek and Bartłomiej Ignaciuk, which can be watched on Netflix since October 5th, is a real hit for the network and remains in the top ten most watched non-English language series in 78 countries! In Canada, the US, the UK, Denmark and France and many others. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcz6MNjTCE4

Younger viewers ask, is it a true story? Yes, in 1997 southern and western Poland experienced a catastrophic flood that claimed 114 lives, 7,000 families lost their homes, and nearly 40,000 people lost all their possessions. However, the fate of the characters is a fiction created for the script.

HIGH WATER fits into the canon of disaster films. A threat, ignored by an anachronistic, rigid, and arrogant establishment, is understood by pragmatic individuals who dare to challenge the widely accepted order.  The flood puts the protagonists in extreme situations, in which they are forced to confront their own weaknesses, bad decisions and repressed emotions. The water brings human tragedies, but paradoxically provides a chance to make a change and to see many things from another person’s perspective. Without judgement, instead with an attempt to understand.

The characters are expressive and credible, not only thanks to the excellent script, written by Kasper Bajon, Anna Kępińska and Kinga Krzemińska, but also thanks to the actors, among whom we have doyens of the Polish stage, such as Anna Dymna and Jerzy Trela. Many critics believe that the character of Jasmine Tremmer, created by Agnieszka Zulewska, is the best creation in the actress’ career to date. There is an interesting Polish-Dutch plot connected with this character, as the heroine of the film studied hydrology in Utrecht, and her life partner is Arjen van Hoek, played by Marcel Romeijn. The dialogues between them are, of course, conducted in Dutch.

The series deserves recognition also for its production design, cinematography, editing and special effects. The very faithfully recreated reality of the 1990s evokes sentiment in those who remember them, the colour scheme of the picture is associated with footage from 25 years ago, and the archival photos used in the series are hard to distinguish from those recorded contemporaneously.

The 1997 flood was the biggest natural disaster in post-war Poland, and the spontaneous reflex of great social solidarity in helping the flood victims can only be compared with the aid to the Ukrainian population fleeing the war. These events were a formative experience and helped to establish local identity in the areas that were annexed to Poland after 1945, where almost everyone was a newcomer and the German heritage seen as something foreign, bringing uncertainty. Polish-German relations appear in the series in the context of the family situation of one of the characters, and Polish and German are mixed in conversation, sometimes in a single sentence, as is often the case in multilingual families.

HIGH WATER is a very well told story and superbly crafted cinema, referring to the best traditions of the genre. It is also the third series made by Jan Holoubek for Netflix, after ROJST and ROJST 97. All three are set in Lower Silesia, and the issue of the post-Germanness of these lands gently resonates in each of them.

Text: Monika Gimblett | Poster Credit Netlix Media Center