The Woods - Polish version of Harlan Coben on Netflix
Third time on Netflix, mini-series based on a book by Harlan Coben
For the third time in two years, Netflix is broadcasting a mini-series based on Harlan Coben's thrillers. Almost like Coben will be permanently employed at Netflix, developing an international mini-series project. We don’t know if the American author of the thriller ever had in mind that his 2007 book - The Woods, would appear in Polish production. The author of the thriller, one of the leading representatives of airport literature, experienced a turn, himself. The Woods thus became W glabi lesu, and the characters were renamed Pawela, Marek, Kamil, and Malgorzat. But that was almost all there was to the Polish flair. Polish is just the names and the rest of the series remained a true Coben.
Four young people went missing in the forest, only two bodies were found! If Camilla is still alive, why didn't call in all those years?
An idyllic summer camp for young's in 1994, it turned into a nightmare for four teenagers. What happened on a hot summer night will leave lasting consequences on the lives of many people today. Pawel, the district attorney, lost his sister Camilla and two good friends, Daniel and Arthur, that rough night. What exactly happened 26 years ago, is a mystery for Pawel. His sister’s body was never found. Four young people went to the forest, two bodies were found butchered, and hidden in the bushes. Two were never found.
Pawel is currently working on a case of rape of a young girl Claudia. He has left a widower early on, a single father with a young daughter, Kaya. His wife Joana died young of cancer. Pawel, after the police find the body of Marek, a man who has a false identity, recognizes his missing friend Arthur in it. This gives him hope that his sister Kamila also survived a brutal summer night at the camp. If she's alive, why hasn't she called in all those years?
Anyone who has watched Safe or Strangers, or read any of the 20 or so published books by award-winning thriller author Coben, knows what to expect from this six-part series. Coben has received multiple awards for published thrillers, Edgar Award, Shemus Award, or Anthony Award. He is known for the twists in the story and the jumps of the plot from the present to the past. The secrets they press threaten to overwhelm those who expose them. Characters like Pawell, in The Woods, are crucified in a desire to find out what happened in the past. Go through catharsis, and getting closer.
Tense atmosphere, solid casting, but miss a bit of local, Polish touch.
The Polish version of The Woods, except the Polish actors, is no different from the screened Safe, or Strangers. Transfer it to Portugal or Gibraltar, it will be the same. Director Leszek Dawid didn’t take much of a risk with Polish motives. He turned a little in the direction of racism and hatred towards Jews, but everything remained mostly on Polish names and surnames. The ATM production company decided that the series is based on the original story, without the spices and smells of Poland. The anxious atmosphere, the camera that wandering through the woods in each episode, is enough to create tension. A solid casting, led by Grzegorz Damiecki as Pawel Kopinski and Agnieszka Grochowska as his great youthful love Laura did a good job. Nothing spectacular, but solid. Like the series itself, nothing spectacular, just solid.
With whodunit plots, it is important to involve the viewer in the investigation and unravelling mysteries.
The Woods is a slow burn thriller. Rhythm is gained with many flashbacks and jumps into the past. If you’ve watched Strangers, early this year on Netflix, with Richard Armitage, you know what I’m talking about. It’s typical for Coben to make the plot divisive with events in the present that have little to do with the secrets of the past. There it is Pawell’s investigation into the rape of young Claudia. A subplot that didn't get any meaningful echo in our heads after the last watched episode.
A lot of characters also mean a kind of blindfold. In whodunit plots, it is important to involve the viewer in the investigation and solution. The solution to the mystery must be at hand, even if more experienced viewers guess what it is about. Coben tends to deceive the viewer, more precisely not to reveal the main threads of the mystery. So you always get a smaller picture, but at the end reveals to you that you didn’t have a chance from the beginning. It’s hard not to mention Agatha Christie, who could show Harlan Coben how it’s done. With any of the 82 books published. But let’s not be too critical of Harlan Coben, because Agatha Christie is unique.
The Woods is a series that can be viewed with ease. The tense atmosphere is well done. Jumps into the past being a better part of the series. If the series was rated as two separate parts, one from 1994, would be credited with a better rating than the one from 2019. Perhaps, as I have already written, it lacks a bit of local flavour. At least I was hoping for a little more flavour and smell of Poland. As it is, we got a universal thriller series. The story is solidly processed, and entertainment in front of the screen is guaranteed. But not for long memories. Like Safe and Strangers, The Woods goes into statistics. By no means on the list of TV events 2020.