Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sanatorium pod klepsydra (The Hourglass Sanatorium)

(1973, Pol, 124min)
d/sc Wojciech Has ph Witold Sobocinski ed Janina Niedzwiecka pd Andrzej Plocki, Jerzy Skarzynski m Jerzy Maksymiuk cast Jan Nowicki, Tadeusz Kondrat, Irena Orska, Halina Kowalska, Gustaw Holoubek, Mieczyslaw Voit, Bozena Adamek. Ludwik Benoit, Janina Sokolowska

Making The Saragossa Manuscript look positively straightforward by comparison, Has's Schulz adaptation is - literally? - a dream of a movie. Joseph son of Jacob, woken by a blind Charon-like conductor on an uncomfortably evocative train full of Jews, is visiting his father in a strange, magnificently decrepit sanatorium whose inmates are sustained by the slowing down of time. Pretty soon, Joseph sees his own self approaching the building, and conventional notions of time and space are out the window, in favour of a disconcerting picaresque through memory and fantasy. Cousin to that other mittel-European Joseph (K), his bewildering purgatory is replete with an invisible bureaucracy that arrests him for his dreams, copious skulls, cobwebs and semi-sentient clockwork mannequins of historical figures plus, this being 70s European art cinema, women who have trouble keeping their blouses closed. Surrealism mingles with arcane allegory and metaphor, underpinned by the horror of the Shoah and the passing of a particular form of Jewish European culture, and if its hallucinatory allusiveness may obstruct full understanding, it's still a stunning head-trip of a movie.

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