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Between Dream and Reality: «The Saragossa Manuscript»

An Analysis of Wojciech Jerzy Has’s Movie


Iwona Grodź

The book features a detailed analysis and interpretation of «The Saragossa Manuscript» (1964) by Wojciech Jerzy Has. The interpretative key is the director’s reference to the aesthetics of various art trends, starting with baroque, through romanticism, symbolism, surrealism and the culture of Orient. The artistic references named here which to a high degree can be brought down to quotations and hints (the composition of stop-frames referring to the style of a given painter or an art trend) are to a large extent the consequence of having been adapted by a particular novel (Jan Potocki). Notwithstanding, also this time Has stigmatised the project with his own style by referring to the aesthetics of surrealism which was alien to the literary prototype.

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9 Krzysztof Penderecki’s Musical Experiment


Krzysztof Penderecki164 composed the music to The Saragossa Manuscript. As an aside one might add that it was the composer’s first adventure with film music. Wojciech Has is well known for the cooperation with many outstanding composers, among others with Tadeusz Baird (Pętla [The Loop]), Wojciech Kilar (Lalka [The Doll]), Jerzy Maksymiuk (Sanatorium pod Klepsydrą [The Hour-Glass Sanatorium], Nieciekawa historia [A Dull Story], Pismak [Scribbler], Osobisty pamiętnik grzesznika [The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner]). Has collaborated with Penderecki again only by Szyfry [Codes, 1966].

Penderecki’s film music compositions were described thus: his music “not only takes a stance on the image by the principle of limiting or giving the determined significance to the visual side of it, but brings personal value, semantically adding to the image”165. The sound layer created for Has’s film justifies this thesis fully, which will be duly shown.

The works of Krzysztof Penderecki are a constant seeking of new sounds and musical colours. The composer has often used experimental articulatory devices in string instruments. A notion that appeared repeatedly together with his name was sonorism. Also, the “picturesqueness” of his compositions was emphasised.

The music for The Manuscript was created during the composer’s period of experimentation (linking the modernity with the tradition). It is emphatically audible in his composition, in the combination of classical instruments or choir with audio possibilities of the technology or the strangest objects166. For example in 1962 his Fluorescences were...

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