Ask yourself: When was the last time you saw a Polish movie or TV series? Long ago yes? You are definitely not alone in this. The Woods have the potential to change this trend.
In the hot summer of 1994, a group of young people in their late teens find themselves in a summer camp, in the middle of the large Polish forests. The mood is good, the hormones are ravaging and jealousy rises to the surface as it flirts to all sides.
The youthful summer comes to an abrupt and brutal end as four of the campers disappear, with a hysterical scream, into the mighty woods. Two of them are found ill-prepared and killed, while the other two are as if disappeared from the face of the Earth.
25 years later we meet again one of the camp participants, Pawel Kopinski (Grzegorz Damiecki). Pawel is now a public prosecutor, a widower and constantly on the lookout for what happened to his sister on the hot summer night of 1994 – Kamila was one of the two who were never found after the night of terror.
The Woods is the American crime writer Harlan Coben’s second project with the streaming giant Netflix. All of his books are centered around his hometown, New Jersey, USA, but fascinatingly, both Netflix series take place in completely different places. The Stranger is set in England, while The Woods takes place in Poland.
In fact, we do not think we have seen a single Polish film since Krzysztof Kieslowski’s gripping trilogy, Blue, White, Red, in the early 1990s. With our innate, Anglo-American “blinders”, it is possible that we have missed many film goodies – because W glebi lasu (which is the original title) is really a great crime!
The story is captivating, original, complex and exciting. The characters are generally believable and natural. Coben often has a penchant for somewhat easy solutions to his not-too-complex crime mysteries, but that is not the case with The woods.
Photo (Pawel Flis) is uniquely beautiful, close and an art film worthy. He loves to get close to the people so that we can almost see their sins and afflictions. Credible characters with depth, human weaknesses and their highly personal secrets.
The constant alternation between 1994 and the present works well, and the series has an underlying, persistently eerie vibe; where one suspects that something is wrong, but is not quite able to put his finger on what.
The actors deliver solid role performances, not least Damiecki is excellent as the ambitious and justice-seeking public prosecutor, but his deeply personal agenda. The Woods is a series that will capture you so much that you binge it in one night. 5 stars.
And by all means, see it with the Polish original voices and subtitles. Watching a Polish series, half-dubbed into English, is just sad.