Is Inheritance a True Story? Is Wladyslaw Fortuna Based on a Real Billionaire?

Netflix’s ‘Inheritance‘ tells a tale of familial estrangement amidst a murder conspiracy as a patriarch, Wladyslaw Fortuna, leaves behind his valuable patents as a reward for his family after his death. The three relatives and their respective families obey their uncle’s instructions by competing in a game constructed by Wladyslaw to determine the outcome of his considerable wealth. Bickering, moaning, and fighting at every step of the way, the group learns to put aside their differences and their selfish needs when the welfare and safety of their abode are jeopardized by covetous intruders who wish to gain a slice of their uncle’s riches for themselves.

Directed by Sylwester Jakimow, the Polish comedy movie is a whodunnit story in which murder and money play pivotal roles in accentuating its mystery. As such, the plans of the crafty genius, Wladyslaw, become a game of their own as he sets up a series of intertwined events designed to teach fitting lessons to his belligerent and selfish nephews and niece. No matter how far one is, the older man is constantly one step ahead as he steers his family to do precisely and exactly what he wants while going through personal growth. Delving into the patriarch’s machinations illustrates the story’s central premise, prompting inquiry into the genesis of Wladislaw and whether ‘Inheritance’ is based on a true story.

The Inspirations of Inheritance are Hedged in its Genre Roots

Originally titled ‘Spadek,’ ‘Inheritance’ is a fictional story about an aging rich man’s attempt to endow his considerable wealth to his nephews and niece through an elaborate game of puzzles. Developed by Lukasz Sychowicz, who penned the script for the Agatha Christie-style mystery, the narrative uncovers the failing family’s dire financial engagements, their constant bickering with one another, and the deep mistrust harbored against those who should be brothers and sisters. Through an exciting and outlandish set of scenarios, the film peels back its themes of reconciliation, selflessness, and a more robust family unit that isn’t torn to shreds by forces of greed and flights of fancy. While wealth may be the primary agency driving everyone, it is a prism in how people act when desperation strikes.

Image Credit: Przemo Paczkowski/Netflix

In many ways, the film’s heightened and whimsical setups are reminiscent of mystery thrillers like ‘Knives Out‘ and ‘Murder on the Orient Express.‘ Both stories center upon a single location as their entry and exit point. In ‘Inheritance,’ Wladyslaw’s giant palatial mansion forms the bedrock for unraveling conspiracies in its visually striking halls and rooms. The two films above untangle their complicated mysteries in a mansion and a passenger train, respectively. In ‘Knives Out,’ Harlan Thrombey, a novelist and head of his family, is murdered, and aspersions are cast upon everyone who attends his house party, thereby depicting a mystery thriller narrative closely akin to the one in the Netflix Polish drama.

As a dying patriarch’s inheritance is a familiar trope within whodunnit films, it lends a sense of solid foundation to viewers. Director Sylwester Jakimow pursues a deeper angle at the family’s internal frayed bonds and looks to stitch them back together through the obstacles placed on the journey to false riches. It dramatizes the family’s disengagement with one another while also providing a realistic lens into how the corrupting influence of greed rips apart bloodlines. Still, despite engrossing itself in those murky territories, the film retains its origin as a fictional conception. A statement that is intertwined with its characters and the presence of Wladyslaw, who initiates the unpredictable path of the story of ‘Inheritance.’

Wladyslaw Fortuna is a Fictional Billionaire with a Real Inheritance Problem

The aging patriarch, Wladyslaw Fortuna, in ‘Inheritance,’ is a fictional character drafted by scriptwriter Lukasz Sychowicz. Wladislaw’s eccentric billionaire status is pivotal in his family’s hound-like nature, elicited by his wealth. As a former game show host on ‘Wheel of Truth‘ and patent holder of several inventions, including a bulletproof vest that resembles a regular undershirt, the eccentric genius is an unstoppable force of creativity and craftiness. Withholding the truth behind his death, he gathers his nephews and niece to the mansion under falsehood but with an elaborate ploy to fix their domestic and financial issues by facilitating a stronger union between them.

The man is a matrioshka doll hiding one intricate design within another. The topic of inheritance is a major point of contention for Wladyslaw, who sees it as a poisoned chalice for those who would want a bigger share of the pie due to the life-altering nature of his wealth. Several rich people have found this a troubling part of maintaining and distributing their empire. However, Wladyslaw is less concerned about wealth and more about what it might do to those who will inherit it. For instance, Marlene Engelhorn, an Austro-German heiress and activist, decided to redistribute the wealth she inherited from her grandmother due to a feeling that she didn’t deserve it and it felt morally dubious to her.

Hanna Fasching//Image Credit: BBC

“I have inherited a fortune, and therefore power, without having done anything for it,” Marlene told BBC. “And the state doesn’t even want taxes on it.” She is a descendant of Friedrich Engelhorn, the founder of BASF, a German company that works in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. She inherited millions in September 2022 when her grandmother passed away. The passing of money down a bloodline has strange and unintended consequences that cannot be accounted for.

While Marlene is sure about giving away her wealth due to a personal drive of her own, in ‘Inheritance,’ Wladyslaw is concerned about the motivations of his nephews and niece when they seek his wealth. While the patriarch crafts an outlandish and bizarre exterior bordering on lunacy through the games he designs, he is ultimately looking to sort out the issues within the family as any head of the family should. Wladyslaw Fortuna may be fictional within the realms of the narrative of ‘Inheritance,’ but the issue of bequeathment he faces is not that different from reality.

Read more: Inheritance (2024): Is Wheel of Truth Based on a Real Game Show?