1974 - 2014


Filmoteka Narodowa

 Realization of “Deluge Redivivus” project by the National Film Archive on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of ‘The Deluge’ by Jerzy Hoffman
Filmoteka Narodowa/ Warszawa/ 2014




By the end I was working with a clenched jaw

Jerzy Hoffman, film director (1974)
Jerzy Hoffman, film director

Let’s put it frankly: if one truly loves Sienkiewicz, then the ‘Deluge’ comes first – the best part of the trilogy, and not ‘Colonel Wolodyjowski’ – the weakest part. But on the other hand, if I hadn’t done “Colonel Wolodyjowski” I wouldn’t have begun working on the ‘Deluge’. Either way, I began production on ‘Colonel Wolodyjowski’, but deep down I was really hoping for the ‘Deluge’ instead. 

But I never told anyone. I did not know whether my approach to Sienkiewicz would even work on the big screen. Only after the validation of “Colonel Wolodyjowski” was I able to officially declare my intention to shoot the ‘Deluge’.

In July of 1969 we began working on the script together with a historian, Professor Adam Kersten, who was a consultant during the production of “Colonel Wolodyjowski”, and with the writer Wojciech Zukrowski. In December the script was accepted. I wrote the screenplay together with the cinematographer Jerzy Wojcik. At the same time, the production supervisor Wilhelm Hollender began pre-production on the film. It all seemed that everything was going to be OK.

But soon roadblocks began appearing, mostly because of our choice of Daniel Olbrychski; there were protests against our vision for ‘Deluge’. To this day I still have nearly 3000 letters and petitions in my home, variously signed by associations of rural housewives, laborers from a gas meter factory, ‘true admirers of Sienkiewicz’s talent’, ‘Polish patriots’, school children and whatnot. In most cases, these voices were rude.

Screaming for a veto, ‘we do not want such a ‘Deluge’ and this Kmicic you’ve written!’

Daniel Olbrychski was thrown by all the foul-mouthed epithets, that he was a mediocre, talentless actor, anemic, hysterical, bleary (…) These irresponsible voices wrought a huge damage to Daniel Olbrychski’s confidence.

He was close to quitting at one point. I don’t think we would have seen this version of ‘The Deluge’ without him. I couldn’t imagine this picture without Daniel Olbrychski.

Małgorzata Braunek came to see the camera tests, when we were busy shooting in the Chapel of Czestochowa.

She was seven months pregnant and she looked just phenomenal. We were all busy with the battle scenes so we could only wait for her to join us. Nobody foresaw, however, that her husband at that time would persuade her to drastically lose weight after giving birth. We had to tighten her costumes, and her face gained a sharper quality.

Today I recall those production days with certain disbelief: is it possible that everything ended happily?

The thing is that the making of a film like ‘Deluge’ requires unprecedented psychological endurance. During the production the director lives in constant tension; constantly stimulating his imagination, feeding his creative energy. He must not only be an artist, but also an executer. This can easily be taken for granted if the production lasts for 3 to 4 months. But the shoot of ‘The Deluge’ took exactly a year and half.

There was no way to shoot on artificial snow; the scale and form of the decorations excluded such a compromise. We had to wait.

Everyone realized that every day brings a loss of tens of thousands zloty; that each day brings us closer to spring. ( ... ) In March there finally came a big snowstorm.

The temperature fell to minus 30 degrees. It only lasted a few days, but it lasted long enough to complete filming of our most important scene.

Since we are talking of troubles and difficulties, I must mention the equipment, and in particular the camera lenses. Of course, from the very beginning it was clear that the ‘Deluge’ would require a wide screen. However, the lenses, which we previously used to shoot ‘Colonel Wolodyjowski’ were already outdated. 

The operator, Jerzy Wójcik, rightly pleaded that by taking on such a huge production we were ought to use camera equipment of an international high standard.

Hence a dilemma – whether to use a conventional lens and a matte, or instead a special lens, giving the impression of panorama.

In this case, we set up a committee, which decided that we need to revise the budget. Back then, Panavision would only rent camera lenses. We could not afford to buy a Panavision camera, so we adapted Arriflex cameras to their lenses. Only half way through the shooting did we receive the transfocal and secondary lenses. 

Works progressed slowly. We shot one double-take of a battle scene and then Jerzy Wójcik pointed his light-meter to the sky, just to say that we were running out time for a sufficient exposure on the film. 

The pyrotechnic team had to disarm everything everyday as it was forbidden to leave weapons loaded overnight. The next day, we managed only another double-take. That is why the shooting schedule reaches 535 days during the production of the ‘Deluge’.

Daniel Olbrychski was awarded as the best actor in a leading role
The first Polish Film Festival

We knew we weren’t going to win the Oscar. 

No attempts were made at lobbying favour, as the only immediate challenger to Fellini’s  ‘Amarcord’ was ‘The Deluge’




Everyone gave it 

120 %

Jerzy Wójcik, author of the photography  

Approaching this film I felt I would be able to express through the camera my own vision, both of the period and the historic events that stood as the backdrop to Sienkiewicz's novel. I wanted to capture this vision through my camerawork in a manner which would draw in viewers. What I wanted to avoid was for this to become another historical film that shines brilliantly only for the duration of the three-hour film; I wanted to make a vision of the past that would linger in the audience’s memory well after the film ended.

During the production of 'Deluge', together with Jerzy Hoffman, we were both focused on composing a good sword fight between Wołodyjowski and Kmicic. 

We had both expert fencing consultants and talented and willing actors, but this was not enough.

I suggested rain. Considering the scale of such a project, amount of work this entailed for the entire crew made this a deadly proposition. Dozens of people were to be soaked to the skin every day. The very next day you have to dress them again in dry clothes. Double costumes were necessary, also several dryers ... If all this is repeated over two weeks, the effort is huge. To maintain the artificial rain over a large area one must have an sufficient number of water pumps, and a lake to source the water from. Why did we do this?

A great conflict is happening, a testament to what people are capable of doing to each other. Above all this scene illustrates the inevitability of fate and nature. It rains all the time. The protagonists of the film, apart from a single sentenced spoken by Kmicic, pay no heed to the rain. The most literal of viewers would describe the rain as nothing more than a background, yet it’s impact on screen goes well beyond set dressing. This is a certainty shown alongside human nature, demonstrating how it applies to individuals, and how it does so in a manner which is not initially apparent. 

Only in time do we realise what is happening on earth.

Together with Jerzy Hoffman we were going to shoot the fire so as to show not only flames and embers, but at some point also to tell about the fire by showing how everything melts in front of the houses. It did not work, because the fire progressed so quickly, with such energy that we literally barely escaped alive. We were not prepared for it, that a huge, fiery vortex will begin to live its own life.

Wilhelm Hollender, production supervisor

I was just nervous. I have to admit moreover, that working on ‘Deluge’ was a wholly unique experience. Virtually everyone involved felt invested in the film. Sienkiewicz obliged us first, but not unequivocally. It was also a first for us dealing with a film on such a huge scale. It was both a giant costume drama and a giant battle drama. In this case it was about particular type of war-craft, namely the discipline of cavalry. Of course we had plenty of experience gained during the production of 'Colonel Wołodyjowski', but in 'The Deluge', both the number of battle scenes, as well the number of riders on the set was far greater.

The set designer for ‘Deluge’ had a thankless task. (…) as such it became necessary to find contemporary locations that could easily stand in for the scenery of those times. Unfortunately very little of the period’s architecture is preserved.

Wojciech Krysztofiak, author of the set design
Magdalena Tesławska, costume designer

I was really excited at the prospect of planning the formal balls scripted in the film. The challenge of costuming balls was not only my personal joy, but is perhaps the most interesting task a costume designer can do. I’m talking about the feast at Janusz Radziwill’s, involving foreign officers, deputies and Polish nobility all dressed in traditional, Polish costumes. For the second ball - the festival in Taurogi, at Prince Boguslaw’s, I designed a completely new set of costumes, going for various contemporary fashion novelties taken “straight from Paris.”

[I had], of course, to design a monstrous culverin [cannon], to which Kmicic addresses the sentence: ‘Here’s a sausage for you, doggy’ (…). To me, not only as a set-designer, the culverin from Czestochowa is one of the major symbols of the film. Blowing it up was the first tangible act [P1] demonstrating the start of Kmicic on the road to moral recovery.

 [P1]Not clear here if Kmicic FIRES the cannon, or wheter he actually blows up (ie destroys) the cannon itself. Don't know the story/film well enough to judge!

Jerzy Szeski, designer of military costume and military accessories 

As for the culverin, together with the consultant Dr. Tadeusz Nowak, a renowned expert on the use of artillery in that period, we established that such a monstrous culverin as described by Sienkiewicz probably could not have existed in the real world. However, after very precise calculations we came to the conclusion, that we could design and build such a monster-cannon, that could live up to both the vision and significance ascribed to it in the novel.




To please everybody?

That’s impossible.

Daniel Olbrychski (Andrzej Kmicic)

I wanted to be Kmicic even before I’d even dreamt of becoming an actor. Reading ‘Deluge’, just as crowds of other young fans of Mr. Andrezj, I identified with the Sienkiewiczian hero. At the age of 27 I became him on the screen!

I think that, from the professional point of view, the role of Kmicic is one of those roles which allows an actor to fully demonstrate his abilities, which is rare nowadays, getting the chance to go full-on that is. Yet it is written so vividly, so colorfully, with such a sense of the rules of drama.

I had the ambition to do all the most difficult and complicated stunts myself, without the help of doubles or camera tricks. And I fully succeeded. In difficult or even dangerous scenes I play with neither aid nor support. I put in a lot of effort and work. Preparations began many months before we started shooting.

Apart from the joy of associating with a great literary and dramatic source, the greatest joy given to me was a chance to truly become Kmicic. 

In two years I lived as if in the seventeenth century and so intensely that sometimes, after the filming was completed, I had the impression that the past had intertwined with the present.

The ‘national’ scandal over me and my participation in ‘Deluge’ … one cannot deny that this battle over Kmicic and this new portrayal spoiled my mood. A paradox after all, that the irony of faith, that the role I accepted immediately without hesitation, this dream role, it sparked so much controversy even before I started. I guess that was why during the fisrt days of shooting I felt somewhat obliged to prove everybody that I was not chosen at random, and that I was not there by accident, but that I was given the chance to experience this great adventure in the Trilogy.

Małgorzata Braunek (Oleńka Billewiczówna)

I was prepared [for attacks] and the campaign against Daniel. I was aware of the fact that whether it would be me, or another actress, it would always be met with protests from some part of the audience. The audience knew what I looked like, so they also knew, immediately, that Oleńka should not look like this. 

To please everyobody? That’s impossible.  

On the other hand, 

Oleńka… what to say, Oleńka from the book is a creature somewhat unrealistic. 

She is too perfect!

I sought to grant her an image located somewhere between myself and the literary creation. 

Oleńka from the novel requires creation of the character from the inside. She has precisely mapped, a single line of action, which is a mirror of Kmicic’s actions - she exists under strong dependence of them.

They shouted “Action!” and we started the scene. First came the command: Trot! Then: Shortened canter and gallop! (…) With such a mass of horses, the acceleration comes very quickly. So, as I was later told, almost immediately on the dashboard of operator’s car the meter showed 60 kph … It really was a mad gallop. (…) the Ambulance had some work to do on that day, taking in and caring for the battered riders on-site.

We had to repeat the scene of the attack on the Swedish camp four times! During the first take, unaware of what was waiting for me, I was happy to do battle and lead a gigantic cavalry charge. Later – I must admit – I became emotional over this difficult and dangerous sequence. With ‘taught’ skin. 

Tadeusz Łomnicki (Michał Wołodyjowski)

At some point in the duel (...) I did not guard myself quickly enough, and there the heaviest of Olbrychski’s swords came right towards my head! Everyone froze in terror, and I managed to cover my guard in literally a split-second. But the shooting had to stop for a bit because I was pale from the emotions, and Daniel was even more upset.

Kazimierz Wichniarz (Jan Onufry Zagłoba)

At that time I weighed 115 kg. One day I got to the set on a small horsey, and a crowd of extras shouted ‘the horse is going down!’ It was the result of the 115 kg. Mr. Jerzy Hoffman and Wójcik, an excellent camera operator, whispered something, winked at each other … And, well, I became Zagłoba. 

Władysław Hańcza (Prince Janusz Radziwiłł)

Before I began to work on the role, I engrossed myself in the many records and historical studies on that era and on the prince himself. I did so eagerly, as I myself already have a historical education and am passionate about the history of my country. While creating the character of Radziwill I was not weighed down by the fact that history deemed him a traitor. This does not mean, of course, that I tried to whitewash him, but that I wanted to show that his conduct wasn’t merely a cold and calculated act of treason. On the contrary, to his nephew, Prince Janusz Radziwill was in some sense a patriot; of course in a different way from how we understand it in the modern meaning of the word. He dressed in a Polish way, and that meant something.

Leszek Teleszyński (Bogusław Radziwiłł)

I was offered the role, so I made every effort to play it as best I could. I also sought to give something of myself to the role.

So that this Boguslaw Radziwill would not be such a straight-cut villain. Playing such an obvious role is uninteresting. Moreover, I met with such an unambiguous reception from the audience.

This character must be very unsympathetic, yet he could not always be the enemy. 

Franciszek Pieczka (Stary Kiemlicz)

I play old Kiemlicz and I have two manly sons - twins, confusingly similar to me. Those are Janiccy brothers from Krakow – an artist and a chemist, chosen for the movie because of their striking similarity.

From working on the film I remember the most keenly Mr. Hoffman, whose enthusiasm was utterly contagious.

Bruno O`Ya (Józwa Butrym)

My great-great-grandfather was a soldier of the Swedish army that fought against the Poles, and now when I fought against the Swedes, we even won. How can fate play such tricks. All this because I played Józwa Butrym in ‘Deluge’. Sienkiewicz’s Józwa is missing one foot, and I have both and not  small ones at that, so it was difficult to hide one of them.[P1]  So Mr. Hoffman decided that Józwa would be without a leg. My ‘concealed’ leg was attached to my back with strips, so that it would stay in place, then a wooden stump was tied to my knee and all this was covered with a long coat, which easily weighed a few pounds. I was ready for shooting.

 [P1]Not sure I understand what the original is here. Does the character Jozwa have to feet, and the actor Bruno O'Ya only have one?




We were looking for towns, castles and wooden huts

Jasna Gora Monastery

-  The Fathers were gracious to us - says Jerzy Wojcik. – They made it possible to shoot anything that was required in the film.  And even more besides: thanks to Primate Stefan Wyszynski, they let us take a photograph of the original painting of Our Lady of Czestochowa. I managed to get an approval from Cardinal Wyszynski.

Belarus. Around Minsk

WAWEL. The Chamber of gilt leather walls became Janusz Radziwill’s chambers of Kiejdany. The white Gobelin Chambers became Prince Boguslaw’s chambers in Taurogi.

-I admit, the decision to let in both Radziwills : Janusz and Boguslaw to Wawel was not the easiest – said Professor Jerzy Szablowski, the then director of the Wawel Castle.

Wola Justowska
Lublinek. By Lodz City

-- It was a duel on horses between Boguslaw and Kmicic - says Hoffman. – It was prepared by the river Dnieper, but eventually we shot it at the airport in Lodz. First we filmed the protagonists and close-ups of horses’ heads. Then I took the two actors, one by one, on my back and circling around in the right rhythm. The one who was to be filmed from the back was taken for a ‘piggy-back ride’ by a stuntman. On horses, Kmicic and Boguslaw wouldn’t have been able to come this close to each other. We edited the whole scene, shifting between close-ups and wide plans.

UKRAINE. Backwaters on the Dnieper. 


B. O'ya, „Przepraszam, czy pan jest aktorem?”, „Ossolineum”, 1977, s.48-50

D. Olbrychski, „Kmicic i Oleńka”, rozm. przepr. A. Markowski, „Panorama Polska”, 1974, nr 13

D. Olbrychski, „Kmicic i Oleńka”, rozm. A. Markowski, „Panorama Polska”, 1974, nr 13

D. Olbrychski,535 dni Potopu”,  M.OLeksiewicz, „WAiF”, Warszawa 1975, s.109

F. Pieczka, „Moje aktorskie przygody, „Trybuna Robotnicza”, 29.07.1972

J. Hofffman, „Potop”, rozm. J. Olszewski, „Film”, 1973, nr 47

J. Hoffman, „Czas mijał, armaty biły pod Częstochową, a Oleńki wciąż brakowało...”, rozm. J. Derenda, „Dziennik Wieczorny”, 18.09.1974

J. Hoffman, „Nie chwaląc się, jam to sprawił”, „Gazeta Wyborcza”, rozm. J. Szczerba, 6-7.09.2014

J. Wójcik, „Labirynt światła”, „Canonia”, Warszawa 2006, s.91-93

K. Wichniarz, „Jak zostałem Zagłobą”, rozm. M. Jędrzejewski, „Argumenty, 1984, nr 21

M. Braunek, „Jak uwierzyć Oleńce?”, rozm. przepr. M. Andrzejewska, „Trybuna Mazowiecka”, 29.12.1974

M. Tesławska, Kontusz dla pana Andrzeja, suknia balowa Oleński..., rozm. A Zarzyski, „Magazyn Filmowy”, 1971, nr 16

„Mówi scenograf »Potopu«”, rozm. przepr. (ski). „Film”, 1971, nr 50

W. Hollender, „Jak kręcono »Potop«”, rozm. przepr. Małgorzta Dipont, „Życie Warszawy”, 30-31.12.1973

W. Hańcza – książę Radziwiłł z »Potopu«”, rozm. (mś), „Słowo Powszechne”, 28/29.12.1974


Five years, three weddings and thousand of concerns

The principal shooting for  'Deluge’ lasted 535 days.

The film cost 100 million pln and it was, at that point, the most expensive Polish production ever made.

70 actors had leading roles, whereas about 350 were supporting and recurring actors.

3000 candidates applied for the role of Oleńka.

For the battle scenes, 2000 peaks, 1500 musket, 700 metal sabers, 300 costume sets for the hussars including the wings, 40 large flags and 30 large tents were made.


Dozens liters of fake blood for 'Deluge' was prepared by the cosmetic brand Max Factor

About 3500 extras and 500 riders participated in the scene of the final battle.

Throughout the entire film, there about a thousand horses are used.



movie trailer "Deluge Redivivus" 
Tadeusz Kowalski

'Deluge Redivivus'– 'Deluge Revived' is an extraordinary project of the Filmoteka Narodowa that aims to bringing one of the most exquisite masterpieces of Polish cinematography to a contemporary audience.

Starting with the elements of a digital reconstruction, lasting 315 minutes in its original version, a much shorter edit of the film was put together. 

It is a peculiar condensation of this monumental piece. A concentrated edit of a monumental piece of filmmaking, its’ brevity maintains the narrative and core themes of the original.

By making the film available to a wider audience, we sincerely hope that revisiting this new-old film will prove a valuable and unforgettable experience.

Elżbieta Wysocka

Creating a new version of any film is not a typical task of an archive. In fact, for the institution that most of all ensures the constancy of its resources this is an extraordinary and controversial task.

Also in this case, we had not forgotten that the primary purpose of the project was the best preservation of the work in its original form.

What's the most important that the filmmakers joined in for the work on reinterpretation of the film - Jerzy Wojcik supervising film images in both versions, and Jerzy Hoffman, under whose guidance the editor Marcin Kot Bastkowski reedited the film and created its three hours long version.

Working on the film means teamwork - not only at the production stage - also when the film is being restored it is necessary to create a “team" of qualified professionals. The competence of the preservation workers is, too, priceless – it largely depends on them what we leave behind and how much work it will be for the digital image alteration specialists.

All the old splicings and their subsequent repairs had to be checked and often repaired again. The main problem, however, were losses within the material: sometimes few frames in a row, another times a missing part or even the whole scene. 

Already a few years back, in order not to lose the synchronization with music, in parts of the film negative with damaged frames prostheses were inserted - so-called blanks. Whilst in case the damaged sections were longer than a few frames – the film negative was replaced with a duplicated negative. These kinds of restoration obstacles can be faced only through the digital reconstruction. Therefore, in both cases of defects and losses of the original film negative, in phase of the contemporary digitization, damaged parts were compared to the duplicate negative and partially completed.

Jerzy Hoffman

It loses neither its most important strands nor its clarity and, at the same time, gains amazing pace. This 'Deluge Redivivus' is “The Deluge” of today – it is an incredible piece to watch, and the test screenings have shown that it has once again become an appealing and fascinating film.

Of course, applying today's form of editing would be difficult, but, as a result of a wise compromise, a refreshed, revived film has come into existence. Hence the title – 'Deluge Redivivus'.

That was an incredible adventure. How to cut out over two hours from a film in such a way that it doesn't lose its quality, that it captivates audiences just as the original did on the day of its’ premiere? 

We had to delete some strands, shorten others, cut out some scenes all together, and re-arrange others, so that everything chimed together. I had freedom, but Jerzy Hoffman surprized me on many occasions by showing me alternative solutions.

Marcin Kot Bastkowski

I often had to solve difficult mathematical equations: where should I cut, where to cut out, when to cut the background music in the dialogue scenes and how should I do that?

The only scene left untouched is the duel between Kmicic and Wołodyjowski. It's my tribute to Zenon Piórecki, the editor of the original version. 

This minute for Piórecki at the same time constitutes a tribute to all those who worked on this film.

Jerzy Wójcik
The Gdynia Film Festival. 'Deluge Redivivus' for the openning
The Iluzjon cinema in Warsaw. The premiere of 'Deluge Redivivus'


The book “Deluge Redivivus” is the first in 40 years monographic publication dedicated to the production of “The Deluge”.

Of nearly 2,000 photos and stills from the film, from collections kept at the National Film Archive, almost 300 are presented in the publication - some of them will see the light of day for the first time. Unique costume designs, posters (both Polish and foreign) and satirical cartoons complete the richness of iconography.

The publication includes new texts by renowned film scholars regarding, to name just a few, reception of the film, interviews with Jerzy Hoffman, Jerzy Wojcik, Daniel Olbrychski, Leszek Teleszyński and other members of the film crew, archival interviews with the film makers, fragments of Polish and foreign film reviews.

DVD/BD Teaser

The publication contains extensive additional material: documentaries 'Deluge. Great Adventure“ and 'Making of Deluge Redivivus', comparative material before and after reconstruction, newsreels from the shooting 'Deluge", the film archive and new movie trailers, educational materials, and presentation of the album. ' Deluge Redivivus' and the documentaries are available with english subtitles, audio description.

Credits: Story

Pomysł i opracowanie wystawy — Aneta Kozłowska, Piotr Śmiałowski (fototeka.fn.org.pl)
Edycja GCI — Karolina Brzozowska (repozytorium.fn.org.pl)
Multimedia — Marcin Kot Bastkowski, Aleksandra Kot
Tłumaczenie — Krystyna Biernawska (repozytorium.fn.org.pl), Peter Walsh

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.