The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf Director Breaks Down His Vision
Narayan Liu
Netflix and South Korean animation studio, Studio Mir, came together to bring fans of Andrzej Sapkowski's novels The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf, a thrilling anime tie-in to the live-action Netflix series. According to executive producer Lauren S. Hissrich and writer Beau DeMayo, the movie brings the Continent to life in ways that a live-action project could never do -- telling the epic tale of the School of the Wolf. It would not have been possible without the film's director and executive producer, Studio Mir's own Kwang Il Han.
In an interview with CBR, Kwang further detailed his vision for directing Netflix's The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf. Han discussed how Sapkowski's fantasy novels impacted the telling of Vesemir's story, his experience adapting the Continent, and how the film visually captured the brutality of both Kaer Morhen's past and the witcher profession overall.
Note: This interview was conducted through the use of an interpreter. The answers provided below have been translated from Korean and were not directly spoken by Kwang.
CBR: How familiar were you with The Witcher when you signed on to Nightmare of the Wolf?
Kwang Il Han: Before the drama series was released, I knew about the overall story from the original novel and from the game only.
What was your first impression of The Witcher?
When I first learned about the universe of The Witcher, what really impressed me was the character of the witchers. They don't belong to humankind. They don't belong to the monster group. And I really love this character about the witchers. In the world we live in, that is something that happens quite often. When you are in both groups, you sometimes feel like you're left out and you're not part of either group. I've felt that way quite often too, and that is how I related to the witchers. That is something that drove my attention... to The Witcher series.
You've worked on other fantasy worlds, like the Four Nations in Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra. But The Witcher has already been explored in Andrzej Sapkowski's novels. How did that impact your vision for the Continent for the anime?
As you said, there are tons of details in the original novel and in the scripts. So before we started, I thought that it'd be easier because there are so many elements out there already. But then it wasn't exactly like that. When we actually started, it turned out to be even more difficult because there are so many things that we had to digest to make the show out of it. It was quite challenging. So digesting it and turning it into a 70-80 minute movie... [It] was not exactly an easy challenge.
On a similar topic I'd just like to ask, how would you describe the overall experience of switching from directing episodic projects to a feature-length form for Nightmare of the Wolf?
In my career, I have worked on some feature-length items as well. But it is true that [much] of my work centered around episodes. In terms of the length, and how I worked, it's always based on the pipeline changes. So from a personal level, it wasn't so challenging. But then there was this particular part about the length of this [film]. In an episodic series, one episode is about 20 minutes. But then for a feature item, it's about 60 minutes and the audience has to stay concentrated for a long period of time. So when creating the look and the storyline, we [made] sure to never bore the audience. That was the part that was quite difficult to manage when I was leading the project and developing the project.
Out of all the adaptations of The Witcher, Nightmare of the Wolf seems to be one of the most visibly violent. How important was it to you that the film didn't downplay the brutality of the witcher profession or the life on the Continent?
Personally, I am not fond of any gore or brutal movies myself. But here, the brutality was the concept that is expressing the reality of the witchers who are excluded from the main majority. It was a representation of how the witcher's life is like -- an extreme representation of the nature of the witcher's life. When I was doing the [story]boarding, I talked with the [story]board director and -- in fact, my wife is a Christian, and she doesn't let me watch any brutal movies like zombie movies -- and then I would watch those kinds of movies to study. I believe that the brutality, the showing of the brutality is, in fact, the representation of the brutality of that particular circumstance. And it actually draws the attention of the audience. It tells the audience how serious the situation is, how challenging the situation is, and how difficult the situation is.
The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf is set to be released Aug. 23 on Netflix.