Film adaptation of classic Polish novel becomes global hit on Netflix

The new Polish drama Forgotten Love (Znachor) has become a global hit on Netflix, spending the first five weeks since its release among the top 10 most popular non-English-language films worldwide on the platform.

The number of hours it has been viewed so far suggests that it will also be among Netflix’s most successful ever non-English titles.

Forgotten Love – which is based on the 1937 novel Znachor (normally translated into English as The Quack) by Tadeusz Dołęga-Mostowicz – was produced by Netflix and first aired on the platform on 27 September.

In its first week, it was streamed almost 12 million times, making it the second-most-watched non-English language film globally on the platform. Since then, it has remained in the weekly top 10, amassing 35 million views in its first five weeks.

During that time, it has been watched for just over 81 million hours. That is well behind Netflix’s most-viewed non-English film ever, Troll, which was watched for 159 million hours in its first five weeks. But it is ahead of My Name is Vendetta (72 million hours), which is seventh in the platform’s ranking.

“[Forgotten Love] is one of the most watched films in dozens of countries around the world, from Argentina, Peru and Brazil, through Taiwan and Turkey, to Portugal, Germany, Morocco and Canada,” Netflix’s director of films for Central and Eastern Europe, Łukasz Kłuskiewicz, told news website Wirtualna Polska.

📢 @netflix enthusiasts! There’s a 🎞️ treasure waiting for you: „Forgotten Love”. This heartwarming film, based on Tadeusz Dołęga-Mostowicz’s iconic 🇵🇱 novel „Znachor” („The Quack”) and a remake of 1981 Jerzy Hoffman’s classic, is a must-watch. And it’s in @netflix US top10! 🧵⬇️

— Katarzyna Rybka-Iwańska (@KRybkaIwanska) October 2, 2023

Forgotten Love, which is directed by Michał Gazda and stars Leszek Lichota in the leading role, is set in interwar Poland and tells the story of a respected surgeon who, after being abandoned by his wife, loses his memory due to an injury. He ends up as a labourer in a small village, where he begins to work as a healer.

The Netflix film is the third time Dołęga-Mostowicz’s novel has been adapted for the big – or in this case small – screen, following a 1937 version directed by Michał Waszyński and a 1982 film by Polish cinematic great Jerzy Hoffman.

“Playing such an iconic character who is struggling with a great deal of experience, immense trauma and finding his identity anew was a huge acting challenge for me,” Lichota told broadcaster RMF.

“The story of Professor Wilczur [the main character] has shown for generations that thanks to the steadfastness of the human heart, humility and the willingness to seek the truth, fate can always turn around,” added Lichota.

Hundreds of classic Polish films have been made available to watch online for free, all with English subtitles.

Among them are works by famed directors Andrzej Wajda and Krzysztof Kieślowski. The website also features thousands of communist-era newsreels

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) July 18, 2022

Last year, Netflix opened new offices in Warsaw, saying that it planned to work more closely with local creators in Poland, which it identified as a “key market” for the firm.

Speaking to Wirtualna Polska this week, Kłuskiewicz noted that their aim in producing content in Poland is not to find “projects whose primary intention from the beginning is to emphasise their universality and reach a global audience”.

“We want to tell stories rooted in Polish specificity and culture, referring to local events and characters,” he continued. “It is an additional joy when they become popular abroad as well, as is the case with Forgotten Love.”

On IMDb, the leading internet database for the film industry, Forgotten Love currently holds a rating of 7.6/10 from around 5,400 user reviews.

Netflix will open an office in „key market” Poland, which will also act as a hub for the CEE region.

The streaming giant, which has invested €105m in Poland over the last two years, wants to work more closely with local creators to produce new content

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) March 30, 2022

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Main image credit: Netflix (press materials)

Agata Pyka is an assistant editor at Notes from Poland. She is a journalist and a political communication student at the University of Amsterdam. She specialises in Polish and European politics as well as investigative journalism and has previously written for Euractiv and The European Correspondent.

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