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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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11 “Perceiving a Particle, You Perceive Depth”: About Wojciech Jerzy Has’s Feature Films


Wojciech Has was one of creators venturing not to transcend reality and matter, rather to unveil their other invisible dimension by way of artistic shaping of an image. His film art seems to be the best evidence for overcoming the limitations of substance, i.e. for “image spiritualisation” and “naming what escapes comprehension”. I label the fourteen feature films by Wojciech Has from the years 1957–1988 as a piece of art. The following are meant here: The Noose (Pętla) (1958), Farewells (Pożegnania) (1958), Roomers (Wspólny pokój) (1960), Parting (Rozstanie) (1961), Gold Dreams (Złoto) (1962), How to be loved (Jak być kochaną) (1963), The Saragossa Manuscript (Rękopis znaleziony w Saragossie) (1965), The Codes (Szyfry) (1966), The Doll (Lalkę) (1968), Sandglass (Sanatorium pod Klepsydrą) (1973), An Uneventful Story (Nieciekawą historię) (1983), Write and Fight (Pismak) (1985), Memoirs of a Sinner (Osobisty pamiętnik grzesznika…przez niego samego spisany) (1986) and The Tribulations of Baltazar Kober (Niezwykła podróż Baltazara Kobera) (1988).

The look at Wojciech Has’s film output from the perspective of its vivid composition is first and foremost motivated by references to fine arts as identified in the director’s films. The creator of The Saragossa Manuscript also favoured the so-called creative concept of set design, that is why he never shot films in natural interior. In 2000 he was also granted the Honorary Award at “Camerimage”, the 8th International Festival of the Art of Cinematography in recognition of special visual sensitivity.

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