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Jeshua De Horta
James C. Morris,
Polish historical action fantasy based on a novel by Jozef Ignacy Kraszewski. In 9th-century pre-Christian Poland, the rustic natives have lived peacefully for centuries, tending their land and worshipping the sun god. But when the power-hungry Prince Popiel brings in the Viking army to establish a barbarous and bloodthirsty regime of terror, it is up to one lone warrior, the famed archer Ziemowit (Michal Zebrowski), to lead a peasant uprising and put an end to the bloodshed. Written by
Forget Brad Pitt as Achilles; Michal Zebrowski as Ziemowit the archer ROCKS! Seriously, the handsome, brooding Zebrowski is about as good as it gets when it comes to a costumed movie hero, and this vehicle is escapist fun from beginning to end. The setting is pre-Christian Poland, where the rustic natives worship the sun god and fend off the depredations of Odin-worshipping Vikings. When the late king's brother, ruling as regent, decides he doesn't want to the hand the throne over to his young nephew, the stage is set for a classic tale of murder, peasant uprising, and heroism (the hero being the loner Viking Ziemowit, who takes up the cause of the local peasants against their scheming ruler).
Pagan rituals, including a funeral, a bacchanalian festival, and the casting of a love-spell, are enchantingly portrayed. The forest scenery is gorgeous, and cinematography is excellent throughout. CGI backgrounds and settings are absolutely beautiful (though special action effects are not quite up to Hollywood standards). Pacing is almost too fast. There's a buoyant sense of energy reminiscent of American films I grew up watching in the 1960s about Vikings, King Arthur, Robin Hood, etc.
At the film's end, we learn that Ziemowit will found the Piast dynasty that will rule Poland as it emerges into the Christian era.
Alongside Zebrowski, the towering Polish actor Daniel Olbrychski does a great turn as the stoic conscience of the peasantry. Olbrychski used to be the male hottie in Polish movies (the slot now occupied by Zebrowski), and he's the one, not Zebrowski, who gets the shirtless scene in this movie. Like Sean Connery, Olbrychski has still got it, and always will! As of this writing (mid-2005), this movie can be found (though not easily!) on DVD with English subtitles, under the title WHEN THE SUN WAS GOD: AN ANCIENT TALE.
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