What would a historically accurate sword fight look like?

Hollywood could learn a thing or two from this Polish production inspired by historical fencing techniques.

Back in 2016, Akademia Szermierzy — a Polish HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) club devoted to “historical fencing and storytelling” — released a series of videos titled Fior di Battaglia that sought to depict historically accurate medieval sword fights.

Drawing upon the writings and techniques of Fiore dei Liberi, a 14th century Italian fencing master, the Fior di Battaglia videos are a far cry from the whirling and twirling so often seen in Hollywood movies. (I’m looking in your general direction, Star Wars prequels.) Despite their amateur-ish and academic nature, Akademia Szermierzy’s videos are much more interesting than most movie sword fights that I’ve seen. (It makes a world of difference when you don’t have to chop up the action with editing because the combatants actually know what they’re doing.)

Building on those videos, Akademia Szermierzy released an honest-to-goodness movie of their own this past summer. Titled Last Tune in the Black Forest, it’s set in 15th century Poland and follows a small ragtag group seeking to defeat the villainous rogue who killed their lord and teacher.

I was initially expecting Last Tune in the Black Forest to be far more action-packed and straightforward à la the “Fior di Battaglia” videos. To their credit, however, Akademia Szermierzy opted for something a bit more ambitious, with atmosphere and dramatic tension. There’s still plenty of action, though, and in keeping with Akademia Szermierzy’s earlier videos, it doesn’t look much like your typical cinematic sword-fighting — which is a good thing.

The fights are messier and grittier at times, and take stock of the surrounding environments, and there are moves that you don’t typically see in movies. Seeing them here, and how Akademia Szermierzy pulls them off while incorporating a historical basis for them, you’ll wish big budget movies looked a bit more like this low budget production. And more importantly, you’ll hope that this is the first of many such productions from Akademia Szermierzy.


Read more about Akademia Szermierzy and HEMA.
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