Saga of the Ancient Forest. Overview of the series

Duration of the whole series: 520’
Original format: 16:9 SD
Format after the revitalization: 16: 9 HD

Series idea, screenplay and direction: Bożena Walencik, Jan Walencik

Production: Film Agency for Program 1 of TVP S.A.
Lead time: 2000–2009
End of series production: 2009

A revitalized digital copy was made at the Documentation and Program Collections Center of TVP S.A. in 2015–2016
Color correction: Barbara moRgan Konopka
Artistic care: Jan Walencik/ŻUBROWA 10
Sound development: Krzysztof Kasiński
Conforming: Paweł Syrzycki, Maciej Walencik, Tomasz Kalisz
2K scanning: Tomasz Kalisz, Michał Kozieł
Head of Division: Stefan Kwiatkowski
Image restoration: Magdalena Błaszczyk, Robert Dunajewski, Tomasz Gałkowski, Stanisław Jarmoła, Michał Kozieł, Tomasz Malinowski
Image stabilization: Paweł Iwaniuk, Piotr Urbański, Michał Wagowski

Frames from the opening sequence of the series (QUOTES).

For years since I started filming, this thought has been torturing me: What does it feel like to be a wild animal? A wolf, raven, bison, beaver, or ant? To overstep the boundaries of feeling of man and animal. To find in myself the purest ability to see, hear, and feel. Unafraid of the wildness of the forest, to feel being its part, the unbridled wildness.

Such is the narrative that each of the 10 parts of the Saga of the Ancient Forest, created by Bożena and Jan Walencik and produced by Telewizja Polska S.A., begins.

According to the authors of Saga…, the purest form of nature documentary is on the wane these days. So they offered viewers a deeper and multi-layered experience in a completely new form. They created NATURE FEATURE SERIES (otherwise unknowingly confused with a completely different form: the feature documentary).

It’s an undertaking carried out with great passion, the likes of which have never been seen before in the history of Polish nature film and television! It takes more than 8.5 hours to watch the entire Saga… (each of the 10 parts lasts 52 minutes)!

Saga… is the second Polish television nature series after Heartbeat of the Primeval Forest, planned from the beginning as a series and so – as an autonomous series, not compiled from other films – realized and broadcast. During the making of this series, many things happened for the first time in the history of Polish nature films. Undoubtedly, Saga of the Ancient Forest is the first such a thoroughly authorial and monumental series about the heart of Polish nature – the unique Białowieża Forest, the last remnant of lowland forests that once covered almost the whole of the Old Continent – Europe. It is here, on the border between Poland and Belarus, that Europeans can touch their roots, see the primeval forest of their ancestors, created solely by Nature.

QUOTE. The opening sequence of the series Saga of the Ancient Forest. Directed by Bożena Walencik, Jan Walencik. Source: TVP.

The key idea of the series is a deeply reflective look at this ancient nest through the fate of an individual. Indeed, the subject of the 10-part Saga… is the fate of 10 animals: specific individuals (characters) of different species, shown – for the first time – not in a documentary but in a fictional way. For this reason, each part is built according to the rules of three-act dramaturgy, that is, the way the fate of man is told in silver screen cinema – with an introduction, a plot twist, a development, climaxes and a finale. An action full of engaging viewer events, adventures, digressions and suspense. For the first time, too, the position of the observer as an omniscient human being was abandoned in favor of looking at the animal characters with deep reflection and empathy. Looking as persons, at their world closest to them and the issues that are important just for them, not for humans. But humans also appear in Saga…, but rather not in the role of protagonist and only in supporting characters.

This film attempt to understand the meaning of the existence of 10 unremarkable animal heroes has a rather pessimistic tone. But also the authors were not at all concerned with the iced, smoothed – untrue picture of Nature, which could satisfy many viewers, eager for a happy and fairy-tale ending. Rather, at the core of Saga… was an unhappy and much-talked-about reflection about our human species: contact between an animal and a human often ends badly, and sometimes tragically, for the former. There was also a second reflection: if the film tells the truth, even the worst truth, it has a chance to move people’s consciences and hearts…

This series is a great attention of the filmmakers to the quality of the plot, to the variability and dynamics of the action, but also to the attention to detail and to the highest quality of widescreen video and surround sound, so for the first time 16:9 and 5.1 formats with nature on a large scale. Saga… is an extraordinary beauty of cinematography, astonishing editing, a deeply emotional marriage of images and subtle sounds of nature, complemented by the masterful music of Michał Lorenc, a sensitive and outstanding composer, and the top-notch acting voice of the narrator – Krzysztof Gosztyła.

Frames from the trailer (QUOTES).

In 2006, during the production of the series Saga of the Ancient Forest, Bożena and Jan Walencik produced a promotional trailer, based on their own idea, for the Office of International Exchange and Trade of Telewizja Polska S.A. It was shown, among other things, at the MIP TV 2006 fair in Cannes, where it served to generate interest in purchasing the series from dozens of TV station contractors from Europe, the Middle East, Asia and America. This trailer features information about 7 years of shooting and the working title The Saga of the Forest. Ten Stories. In the end, shooting took more than 9 years.

QUOTE. Trailer for the series. Saga of the Ancient Forest (from 2006). Directed by Bożena Walencik, Jan Walencik. Source: TVP.

It took almost 10 years to produce the 10-part Saga of the Ancient Forest, made intimately with a remarkably modest team and very unaffordable funds. It also happened for the first time.

Despite years of efforts by the filmmakers, filmed on Super 16mm negative and completed in 2009, Saga… was released in a picture version with standard 16:9 resolution (instead of the HD 16:9 resolution declared by the producer), but with 2.0 and 5.1 sound just adapted to HD (!). It was only 7 years after the end of production that the series’ image layer was rescanned and painstakingly processed, obtaining the 16:9 HD format expected by the authors.

The series Saga of the Ancient Forest, after completion, lay on the shelf in the TVP archive warehouse for almost 1.5 years before it received a completely unprepared premiere on TVP 1, in addition, on two different dates – 26.09/03.10/10.10/17.10.2010 parts I, II, II and IV, and from 06.12 to 10.12.2010 parts V, VI, VIII, IX, X. Part VII premiered on 23/03/2018 as a pilot of the series, before the broadcast of the whole.


 

In 2012, Polish Television produced and marketed the series Saga of the Ancient Forest in its original 16:9 SD format as a three-disc DVD release.

After 6 years of production, the entire series was revitalized at the TVP Documentation and Program Collections Center in 2015 and 1 2016. After precisely scanning the original Super 16mm negative, the image underwent lengthy and painstaking processing, which included scaling it to 16:9 HD widescreen format, undergoing stabilization, ginning, cleaning and retouching, as well as new color correction. All that remained was the same sound as in the original, already prepared for HD as two separate rips: 2.0 i 5.1.

In 2016, Polish Television produced and launched the series Saga of the Ancient Forest after revitalization, i.e. in 16:9 HD format, in the form of a three-disc BD (Blu-ray Disc) release.


 

In 2008, in Warsaw, in the Polish Television’s competition for the best opening sequences Spring 2008, Bożena and Jan Walencik received an award for the opening sequence to Saga of Ancient Forest – TVP 1 (together with the opening sequence The alphabet of Polish performance – TVP Kultura). Saga of Ancient Forest attracted attention with its thoughtful composition, impeccable editing and music that dynamizes the whole.These two proposals definitely stood out. (….) The most important thing is that they encourage people to watch the program and stay in the memory – justified the jury’s decision to Tomasz Bagiński, author of The Cathedral and The Art of Falling.

11 czerwca 2010 r. w Szanghaju (Chiny), na XVI Festiwalu Telewizyjnym, Bożena i Jan Walencikowie otrzymali nagrodę – Srebrną Magnolię dla dokumentu przyrodniczego za film Saga prastarej puszczy. Część X. Opowieść o rysiu. Wbrew naturze.

24 września 2011 r. w Łodzi, na XIV Międzynarodowym Festiwalu Filmów Przyrodniczych im. Włodzimierza Puchalskiego, Bożena i Jan Walencikowie otrzymali Grand Prix, nagrodę Polskiego Instytutu Sztuki Filmowej za film Saga prastarej puszczy. Część V. Opowieść o żuku. Potęga karła.

GALLERY – PHOTOS FROM THE MAKING OF THE SERIES (click on any photo to enlarge it and enter the gallery).

If our series Saga of the Ancient Forest meets your expectations, you can buy the DVD or BLUE-RAY disc and own it legally.

SAGA OF THE ANCIENT FOREST

DVD

SAGA OF THE ANCIENT FOREST

BLUE-RAY