The Saragossa Manuscript — Wojciech Jerzy Has
Wojciech Has' film is a swashbuckling voyage into the magical and adventurous times of the past, flecked with danger, romance, intrigue and philosophy.
The film, also known as The Saragossa Manuscript, has been called a progressive adaptation of a novel by explorer Jan Potocki set during the Napoleonic Wars and weaving fantastic tales of Moorish princesses, picaresque adventurers and the Spanish Inquisition. The film is arguably Wojciech Jerzy Has's most successful film (alongside The Hourglass Sanatorium) and has been cited among the best loved films of such Hollywood greats as Martin Scorsese, David Lynch and Francis Ford Coppola.
A meeting of officers of the warring sides takes place during Napoleon's Spanish campaign in Saragossa. The officers put down their arms and engross themselves in reading the magnificent manuscript which has been found, thus introducing us to a phantasmagoric world of returning time, criss-crossing themes and philosophical questions. An officer of the Valon guard, Alfons van Worden, chooses the shortest route - through the Castilian mountains - to get to Madrid, and experiences a whole series of extraordinary adventures on the way. He returns several times to the starting point - the mysterious inn and its eerie surroundings - to revisit regions of time and space which, however, each time are populated with different characters and seen from a different perspective.
An adaptation of a novel by an eighteenth-century writer, scholar, philosopher, soldier, traveller and one of Europe's most fascinating minds at the time, this three-hour-long film is a 'heart and dagger' adventure for some, a costume comedy or a fantastic fairy-tale with ghosts, hanged men, the possessed and mysterious princesses for others. Like the novel, deep down this film is a rationalistic satire on human stupidity and superstition.
- Małgorzata Hendrykowska, Kronika kinematografii polskiej,Warszawa 1998
One of the most original Polish films; a vision of a chaotic, disorderly world as a metaphor of the randomness of human fate; a vision without a rational key.
- Jan Słodowski, Leksykon polskich filmów fabularnych, Warszawa 1997
Wojciech Has has made an extraordinarily sophisticated picture. The framing, shooting from behind various objects, extraordinary camera zooms, cuts, montage, foregrounds and backgrounds, seeming multiple cameras - all this has been done superbly, with a calculated and refined taste and an ascetic fashion. One still cannot help being enraptured by the long silent individual and sequential scenes in which the tension eases not for a moment [...] by ascetic images, baroque-like narrative overflow, long-drawn-out bits which become savory in the context of the story. It is a highly compelling combination of epic, rhetoric and poetry.
- Krzysztof Lipka, Kwartalnik Filmowy 1997
Rękopis znaleziony w Saragossie / The Manuscript Found in Saragossa
Feature film, Poland, 1964. Directed by Wojciech Jerzy Has. Screenplay by Tadeusz Kwiatkowski based on novel by Jan Potocki. Director of photography: Mieczysław Jahoda, music by Krzysztof Penderecki. Production design by Jerzy Skarżyński, Tadeusz Myszorek. Costume design by Lidia Skarżyńska, Jerzy Skarżyński. Featuring: Zbigniew Cybulski (Alfons van Worden), Franciszek Pieczka (Paszeko), Iga Cembrzyńska (Princess Emina), Joanna Jędryka (Zibelda), Kazimierz Opaliński (Hermit / Sheik), Ludwik Benoit (Paszeko's father), Barbara Krafftówna (Camilla de Tormez), Krzysztof Litwin (Don Lopez Soarez), Feliks Chmurkowski (Soarez's father), Bogumił Kobiela (Señor Toledo), Gustaw Holoubek (Don Pedro Velasquez), Aleksander Fogiel (Nobleman), Pola Raksa (Inezilla - Camilla's sister), Adam Pawlikowski (Don Pedro Uzeda), Beata Tyszkiewicz (Donna Rebecca - Don Pedro Uzeda's sister), Leon Niemczyk (Don Avadoro), Sławomir Lindner (Van Worden's father), August Kowalczyk (Inquisition officer), Jerzy Przybylski (Banker Don Moro), Zdzisław Maklakiewicz (Don Roque Busqueros), Michał Gazda (Aquillar), Elżbieta Czyżewska (Donna Frasquetta Salero). Produced by: Zespół KAMERA, WFF Wrocław, WFF Łódź 1964. Black and White, 4960 m.
- Mention at Edinburgh '65 IFF;
- Golden Pen and CIDALC Award at San Sebastian '65 IFF
- Special Medal at Sitges '69 IFF
- Spanish Critics Best Studio Film Award '71.