Take a look at the inspirations behind ‘The Witcher’
The hugely popular Netflix series “The witcherâHas everything you could expect from a fantastic adventure, including terrifying beasts, magical feats, sword battles and power games. In the first season, we saw the fate of the main character, a monster hunter named Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), become inextricably linked with that of the tormented witch Yennefer of Vengerberg (Anya Chalotra) and the young princess Cirilla ( Freya Allan) – whose role and powers are beginning to emerge in the long awaited season 2, which was unveiled on December 17.
But the show, based on a world created by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski, also has a sense of humor that often borders on the wacky, and it even generated a cult pop-rock earworm, “Flip a coin at your witcher.” The stylistic palette of the series is as unpredictable as it is broad.
To keep the inspiration flowing, showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich sticks ideas and references on a door. She was still a screenwriter and executive producer of the Netflix superhero show. “The Umbrella Academy” when she landed her new gig, in august 2017, so the door did double duty for a while.
âWhen it was opened it was all ‘Umbrella Academy’, and when it was closed I was able to start digging into ‘The Witcher’,” she said.
Schmidt Hissrich, 43, spoke via video from Los Angeles about some of the inspirations behind “The Witcher”. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Schmidt Hissrich has long loved Jim Henson’s film âLabyrinthâ (1986), in which teenage Sarah is drawn into a strange world of goblins and fairies.
âYou have live action, you have songs, you have fun, and you have these creatures too, and they all feel like the same world,â she said. âFor ‘The Witcher’ we struggled at the start with, ‘How do you get people to take a story seriously when there are monsters flying left and right?’ I loved how âLabyrinthâ brought all of these things together. â
The showrunner distinguished the scene in which the Junk Lady agitates the lure of material goods to distract Sarah from her mission. âThere’s that feeling of ‘If only I could stay here, if only I could believe it,’ Schmidt Hissrich said. [Sarah] knows it’s not real.
She likened the scene to that of the new season in which Ciri has to make a decision between past and future – “and that’s really what ‘Labyrinth’ is too.”
When she started the series, Schmidt Hissrich felt it was important to understand where Sapkowski was coming from. His research included a two-week trip to Poland and following Polish photographers on Instagram. Among them was Michal koralewski, whose image of the old town of the medieval city of Poznan has been on its wall for a few years now.
âThe fantastic is often portrayed as awful and austere and gray, and everything is dusty because it’s the worst time in the world,â she said with a laugh. “One of the things I wanted to bring to ‘The Witcher’ was a sense of light and color, so I was immediately drawn to the colors, the buildings, the brightness of the photo.”
Schmidt Hissrich also appreciated that the photo did not look like a clichÃ© from the Middle Ages. âThe spectacle does not take place in our conception of the medieval world – it is a fantastic world without limits of time and space,â she said. âA lot of times our characters speak a bit more modern language than we expected. I know that’s a lot for a photo, but for me, it touched all of those things.
Schmidt Hissrich isn’t looking for horror movies (âThey Give Me Nightmaresâ), but she makes an exception for Robert Eggers’ epoch shock âThe Witch,â from 2016. âThe Idea of ââTelling a Story horror by what you don’t see deeply informed about the way we approach things in ‘The Witcher’, âshe said.
More precisely, it draws parallels between the heroine of the film, Thomasin (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) and Yennefer. âThomasin wants to accept who she is in Puritan New England, as well as independence and power against societal constraints,â Schmidt Hissrich said. âTheir journeys interest me a lot, and also, more generally, the confusion of good and evil. Temptation vs. Resistance: This theme from “The Witch” directly informs Yennefer’s story this season. “
Schmidt Hissrich’s association with Netflix began on the “Daredevil” series a few years ago, and she wrote the episode featuring Elektra Natchios, the murderer of Marvel in season 2. Pulling a copy of Michael Del Mundo’s “Elektra: Bloodlines” comic from a shelf, she flipped through a few pages.
âVisually, she goes from dancer to murderer and all those ribbons become blood,â Schmidt Hissrich stressed. âHe’s a character who is forced to let go of all other parts of his identity, to become that one thing, an assassin. Geralt is a witcher and we see what happens when that facade has to start to crumble.
The choreographic element crept into Geralt’s fight in a season 2 library. “It’s such a beautiful dance, and it’s a very environmental fight – he takes a stool here, a lamp there , because he doesn’t have his weapons. ” said Schmidt Hissrich. âThere is something reminiscent of ballet in there. “
On Schmidt Hissrich’s desk is a cute little teacup with the word “poison” printed on it. âI like to write about contrast,â she said. âThere’s a scene in episode 6 that’s very quiet; the music is quite nice and pleasant. And then something very violent happens. Presenting these contrasts is one way to keep our audience on board. “
Obviously, âThe Witcherâ has its fair share of sex and violence, but it also doesn’t linger uncomfortably, unlike other series that may come to mind. âIt’s an adult show – kids shouldn’t watch it,â Schmidt Hissrich said. “But that doesn’t mean that every time we see someone have their head cut off, we have to stay on their heads and see it all spring up.”