The Hour-Glass Sanatorium by Wojciech Has

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The original Polish poster by the incredible Franciszek Starowieyski.

The shrinking pool of films still unavailable on DVD contracted by at least one title recently with the surprise appearance in the UK of The Hour-Glass Sanatorium (Sanatorium pod klepsydra; 1973) from the distinctively-named Mr Bongo Films. I’ve been waiting to see this for at least twenty years so being able to walk into Fopp and buy a copy for a mere £12 strikes me as one of those small but rarely acknowledged miracles of contemporary existence.

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Director Wojciech Has is more well-known for his long and weird 1965 adaptation of the equally long and weird Saragossa Manuscript, a rambling semi-fantastical novel by Jan Potocki from around 1805. David Lynch described Saragossa as “Simultaneously horrific, erotic and funny…this is one mother of a film,” and the same description could be applied to The Hour-Glass Sanatorium, as far as I’m aware the only other excursion Has made into full-on strangeness. If anything, Sanatorium outdoes his earlier work on just about every level. Readers familiar with the writings of Bruno Schulz will already have recognised the title as being a truncated variant of Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass, the second and final collection of Schulz’s unique and very strange stories.

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