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Poland 1973
Directed by
Wojciech Has
125 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The Hourglass Sanatorium

The Hourglass Sanatorium is based on short stories by the Polish-Jewish author, Bruno Schulz, who was shot by the Nazis in 1942. Opening with the Nosferatu-like arrival of a young man (Jan Nowicki) at a decrepit sanatorium in the snow-covered countryside, the film is a series of strange encounters that follow a dream-like logic are, broadly speaking, a reflection of the central character's confronting the death of his father, an event which brings up Fellini-esque memories of his childhood growing up in a Jewish community.

Beyond these discernible themes, the film, much like Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo which came out around the same time, is a kind of head trip in which style  - here a kind of theatricalized Gothic junkyard aesthetic - and convention/reality-defying attitude (smuggled out of Communist Poland where it had been officially banned for failing to comply with the regime's social realist ideology), the film won the Jury Prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival), as much as any comprehensible narrative or message, is essential to the film's meaning.  

Although the Zeitgeist to which the film belongs has long gone and we now live in more complacently rationalist times The Hourglass Sanatorium is worth seeing for its inventiveness and the quality of its realization.




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