“1670” – Modernity in a Historical Costume [Review]

1670 polish series


Title: “1670”

Release Date: 2023

Cast: Bartłomiej Topa, Katarzyna Herman, Martyna Byczkowska, Michał Sikorski, Michał Balicki i inni



I approached the Polish series “1670” with a huge amount of skepticism. If not for the strenuous persuasion of my husband I would rather not have watched this production, but what one does not do to spend a few long winter evenings together on the couch in the daily hustle and bustle. And I must admit that I enjoyed the series very much, from episode to episode I got into its funny, internal logic and language. The light-hearted satire on modernity in historical costume can really make you laugh in many places, and the texts taken from modern discourse juxtaposed with 17th century realities sound really excellent. And surprisingly, they make excellent commentary on both then and now Polish reality.

“1670” – about the Polish court with a twinkle in its eye

The plot of the series, available on the Netflix platform, as the title indicates, is set in the second half of the 17th century. The main character of the story is Polish nobleman Jan Pawel Adamczewski, whose ambition is to become the most famous John Paul in history. This modest dream, as we know, is unlikely to come true, which does not prevent the sarmat from making far-reaching plans. For the time being, he resides in his mansion with his extremely religious wife Sophia and his three children. One of his sons, Jakub (Michal Sikorski), has been earmarked for the priestly state because, he says, he’s a stable, thriving employer. Stanislaw (Michal Balicki) is mainly concerned with romance and playing in an underground music band. On the other hand, Aniela (Martyna Byczkowska), whose parents plan to marry the magnate’s son, tries to reform the peasants’ worldview of caring for ecology.

John Paul represents a perfect conglomeration of Sarmatian vices. He fondly travels to sejmiks to savor the famous golden freedom of the nobility – the right to negate all planned resolutions. He oppresses his peasants, to whom he constantly raises serfdom. And he has constant disputes with his disliked neighbor, Andrzej Pobreza (Andrzej Kłak). By the way, he despises dissenters and townspeople, while he willingly hosts at his doorstep a spoiled aristocrat, whom he hopes to marry his daughter.

The series “1670” – between history and modernity

1670 netflix review

The series “1670” was conceived as a parabolic picture, making a statement about past and present times at the same time. And I must admit that I was surprised how successful this risky procedure was for the creators of the Polish production. The satirical doublespeak sounds not only interesting, but also really light and funny. What’s more, the clash of two time perspectives: seventeenth-century realities with contemporary language allows us to see both realities from an interesting perspective.

On the one hand, we have here a reckoning with Sarmatian vices, and on the other – a rather sharp criticism of modern beliefs and myths. If one treats this picture as a parable of the modern social order, in which the wealthy elite, who make up a small percentage of humanity, benefit from the almost slave labor of the rest, one can reflect a little on one’s own fate. But in the series “1670” gets a lot of phenomena: here we have a parody of ecological discourse, jokes on the greed of the church hierarchy and on Polish anti-Semitism, or a mockery of korpomowa. The coaching philosophy familiar from corporate training sessions comes off particularly funny, and statements like “a peasant from his comfort zone can only be driven out with a stick” are deeply memorable.

“1670” and excellent acting performances

1670 series review

However, this brilliantly conceived humorous story would not have turned out so well if it were not for the excellent acting performances. Bartlomiej Topa created on the screen a character as amusingly self-effacing as he evoked genuine sympathy. Martyna Byczkowska gave a good performance as a young progressive woman with ideals, who provides the perfect counterbalance to her father’s primitive ideas. Michal Sikorski in the role of Father Jacob is a truly diabolical embodiment of double morality. My favorite, however, is Catherine Herman in the role of a stolid matron who tries to drown out her marital disappointment in excessive piety.

Beautiful is her spectacular transformation under the influence of a sensual, sinful affair. And equally irreplaceable are the heroine’s ironic and very insightful comments on current events. For me, her acting is a real gem that shines with professional experience and talent. So I think that “1670” will appeal to a wide audience.