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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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10 Manuscript “Found Abroad”


“Has is equal to Fellini through the luxuriance of images, to Tarkovsky and Satyajit Ray through the weight of reflection”175.

Gilbert Guez

“A timeless piece of art” – thus one of his foreign fans wrote about Has’s work. The Saragossa Manuscript brought to amazement among others Luis Buñuel, Jerry Garcia, Martin Scorsese, and Francis Ford Coppola. Owing to the latter three the film was released on the American market.

Also David Lynch was interested in the author of Sanatorium an image. On 25th February 2000 in “The Austin Chronicle Screen” his article was published to this subject: The Story Behind the Story of The Saragossa Manuscript. The author of the Lost Motorway compared the film composition to Russian little wooden dolls (matriochkas). Additionally, the issue of imitation seemed interesting to him, therefore individual paragraphs of his contemplations bore the following titles: Art Imitating Life, Life Imitating Art. Supposedly also Bernardo Bertolucci a few years ago announced his plans for a film adaptation of Jan Potocki’s book, but so far has not implemented his idea. Susan Sontag, however, underlined the virtuosity in the narration in Has’s Saragossa176.

In the United States the worship of The Manuscript revived thanks to the leader of a musical group musical established in nineteen-sixties, “The Grateful Dead”177. Jerry Garcia for the first time saw the film in North Beach. Already the first surrealistic dialogue from the film, in which the captain in the beleaguered city instead...

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