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THE HOURGLASS SANATORIUM

Director: WOJCIECH JERZY HAS

119 minutes| Poland| 1973| Subtitled| Colour| 35mm


The late Wojciech Has was an important figure in post-war Polish cinema and is best known for his 1965 film The Saragossa Manuscript, based on the novel by Count Jan Potocki. Like Saragossa, The Hourglass Sanatorium has a Chinese-box structure and multiple stories. It’s based on 12 tales by the Polish-Jewish fabulist Bruno Schulz, most of them drawn from his collection Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass.

Set in pre-World War 2 Poland, Has’ dreamlike film follows Józef (Jan Nowicki), who travels on a dilapidated train to see his dying father in a sanatorium. As he wanders through the rundown hospital where time-shifting is part of the treatment, Józef encounters a bewildering array of characters, many of them seemingly conjured up from his own past. The narrative operates as if it were Józef’s dream, and the film’s inspired direction, set design and editing make for some seamless yet startling transitions between waking and dreaming states. Fans of weird cinema will love it.

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