High Water is a slow-burn Polish drama depicting the 1997 flood that cost the lives of 56 people. 40,000 people lost everything in the biggest disaster Poland have faced since World War II. So how did this come about? Why did the flood devastate the area?
This six-part Netflix series dives into these questions and more, taking an artistic vision to the real events that took place at the time.
The show centers on three different characters, although the primary focus is on Jasmina Tremer, a hydrologist. She’s summoned to the town of Wroclaw to oversee flood procedures, where scientists – including Professor Jan Nowak – are joined by the Mayor (our second character) and acting province governor Marczak (the third focal figure), as they weigh up the pros and cons of the impending disaster about to strike.
The first 3 episodes essentially work on fleshing out the background and history for the area, including an extra subplot involving a girl called Klara and her potential parentage. I won’t spoil anything here, but it does get a good amount of closure during the final episode, even with some rather contrived plotting to make it come about.
Those after something action packed, full of intense drama and nail-biting segments, are likely to come away a bit disappointed. This is much more methodical and politically charged series, and even when the flood does hit, There’s very little in the way of bombastic set pieces. To be fair though, there is some nice tension built up prior to this, with some scenes involving animals in episode 3 a lovely way of foreshadowing what’s to come.
The blend of fact and fiction certainly works in the favour of this production, with real life characters switched to fictional ones, complete with decent backstories and intriguing subplots. This is much more of a character-driven ensemble, as mentioned before, although thankfully this doesn’t slip into the realm of soapy drama either.
High Water is certainly not without its flaws though and in many ways, this didn’t need to have 6 episodes to tell its story. 4 episodes would have been more than suffice and may have actually worked to beef up some of the drama, which is spread out perhaps a tad too much.
With all things considered, High Water is a decent Polish drama and if you’re a fan of disaster dramas, this should be right up your alley. It’s certainly not going to ignite the small screen anytime soon, but it’s not bad for an evening or two’s entertainment.