An ambitious Polish producer is trying to raise more than 120 mln zloty for what would be Poland’s most expensive film ever – the story of how a combined Polish, German and Austrian army stopped the Ottoman Turks from conquering Vienna in 1683.
Producer Mariusz Bialek hopes to get Mel Gibson to star in “Victory,” which should resonate with audiences because of today’s clash of the Christian and Muslim civilizations. The producer also hopes to hire the special-effects crew from “Lord of the Rings.”
The victory at Vienna, led by a Polish king, was a pivotal point in European history. If the Turks had won it, Europe might be Muslim today.
Work on the movie began three years ago when Bialek asked Cezary Harasimowicz to write the screenplay. If all goes well, shooting will start early next year in the Sowie Mountains near Wroclaw.
“Eighty-five percent of the story is based on historical truth,” Harasimowicz said. “I collected a lot of documents and letters about the Battle of Vienna. I found an interesting and not so well-known plot, with many surprising twists.”
In addition to a thrilling plot, the story will feature love and comradeship — everything needed for “a great show,” Harasimowicz said. Bialek has contacted Gibson about directing and starring in the film – and the actor has shown interest. Bialek wants him to play King Jan III Sobieski of Poland, the hero of the Battle of Vienna.
It will not be lost on today’s movie audience that the battle started on September 11, two months after the Ottoman Empire laid siege to Vienna. King Jan III led the Christian forces who vanquished Grand Vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha’s Islamic army. The Christians’ victory not only stopped the Ottoman advance through Europe but also ensured that Austria’s Habsburg dynasty would continue dominating central Europe. The dynasty ended up lasting 170 years, beginning in the 15th Century.
Bialek started thinking about making the movie after the 9/11 attacks. The associations between the Battle of Vienna and the 9/11 attacks of 2001 “seemed obvious,” he said. “Here was another clash of two religious worlds.”
On September 11, 1683, Muslim fighters were also poised to thrust a dagger “at the heart of Western civilization,” he said. “And then, too, the Western world united.” Bialek’s main line of work is business rather than film. He is a property developer, realtor and executive recruiter. But he also produced the Andrzej Jakimowski film “Sztuczki,” which won best movie at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia and critical acclaim at the Vienna Film Festival.
To finance the film’s production, Bialek has lined up Polish and German investors and will be putting up considerable money of his own. He has also started the first film-production investment fund in Poland. Investors will buy shares in the fund. If the movie makes money, they will share in the profit, with the amount they get based on how many shares they own. Although he loves the story line, Bialek said he also views the film as “a product I’m going to sell. It’s a business. I have calculated what kind of movie the world would like to see.”
Europe needed a common denominator in 1683 to ward off the threat to its civilization. It is the same today, Bialek said. The common denominator both then and now is faith, he said. “The film will show that Christianity is the thing that unites Europe,” he told the daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.