The Hourglass Sanatorium (Restored Edition) DVD
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Directed by Wojciech Has
Produced in 1973
Main Language - Polish with English subtitles
In a year in which some unjustly overlooked eastern European films have finally come to DVD, here’s another forgotten masterpiece from the director of The Saragossa Manuscript. At first glance, Has’s adaptation of numerous stories by the fabulist Bruno Schulz (who also inspired the Quay Brothers) is virtually incomprehensible, as Joseph visits his dying father in a ramshackle sanatorium that seems, like Alice’s rabbit-hole, to be the gateway to a bizarre netherworld whose elements are held together by some of the most effective dream logic this side of Buñuel. The viewer clings onto recurring themes and props (automata based on historical figures, a stamp album, exotic birds, glass eyeballs) like a comfort blanket while drinking in the outlandish ideas – the baroque production design makes Terry Gilliam look spartan. The film is sometimes startlingly erotic, but in darkly cranium-burrowing ways that recall the work of Walerian Borowczyk. Most unsettling of all is the recreation of pre-Holocaust Jewish Poland, whose total destruction Schulz didn’t live to witness.
Michael Brooke on 1st November 2008
Author of 154 reviews
An epic, dreamlike stream-of-consciousness film, Wojciech Has’s cinematic adaptation of Bruno Schulz’s story 'Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass', is a cinematic feast, featuring superb performances, atmospheric flair and other-worldly sets.
Set in the pre-World War II era, the film sees Joseph (Jan Nowicki) travelling on astrange, dilapidated train to see his dying father (Tadeusz Kondrat) in a sanatorium. Upon arrival though, he finds a hospital crumbling into ruin, where time is slowed down in order to maintain his father’s life signs. As he is beset by events and figures from his own past, Joseph is visited by the fantasies and moments of his youth, before having to face up to the pedestrian present and the responsibility of middle age. A film that served as a precursor to the works of Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton, and a favourite of the Quay Brothers, Hourglass Sanatorium is a surreal exploration of immortality, memory and psychoanalysis. Has also adds a series of reflections on the Holocaust to the film that were not present in Schulz’s original collection of writings.
Publisher: Mr Bongo
Length: 119 mins
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 19th March 2012
Cat No: MRBDVD045
- This new version is one of the first Polish restored films in HD, with the reconstruction work of Kino Polska Digitization process overseen by the outstanding Polish cinematographer Witold Sobocinski.