WARSAW, Poland (AP) _ Poland's most expensive film ever opened Friday, concluding an 11-year quest by its director to bring one of the nation's most chersished historical novels to the screen.

``With Fire and Sword,'' costing $8.5 million, has been promoted with thousands of posters, a theme song played repeatedly on radio stations and extensive media coverage.

Poles have been buzzing about the three-hour film filled with battle scenes, lavish costumes and well-known actors.

Based on the popular novel of the same name by Nobel Prize winner Henryk Sienkiewicz, the film is about a fierce rivalry between Polish and Ukrainian aristocrats to win the love of Helena, a Polish countess, during the 1647 Ukrainian uprising against the Polish gentry.

In 1987, director Jerzy Hoffman received funds from the former communist government's culture minister to film ``With Fire and Sword.'' But after the fall of communism in 1989, the new minister withdrew the money, citing a shortage of funds.

Hoffman eventually secured a loan for $4.7 million from a Polish bank in 1997. Other sponsors and cultural organizations paid the rest.

``I offer a story about human passions _ love, hate, lust for power. These are universal problems,'' he said in media notes. ``Sometimes the film is brutal but it's also lyrical.''

Featuring 100 actors, at least twice as many horses and 10,000 extras, the movie has bloody battle scenes balanced by comic episodes.

Film critic Jacek Szczerba said the movie reflects the Polish national character.

``I would not call it patriotism but there is something that touches us in that film,'' he said. ``American movies are made so to be understood everywhere. We need something that is written in our own handwriting.''

At least half of the 40,000 tickets for the film's first two weeks at Warsaw's Relax theater were reserved in advance, said theater director Zofia Cieslak.