The fantastical and the bizarre are elements which make up much of Polish director Wojciech Has’ work. Unlike most of his peers, throughout his career he tended to avoid political themes, preferring to create magical and surreal worlds in which to place his characters. The Hourglass Sanatorium is arguably his greatest achievement.
As Joseph (Jan Nowicki) travels by a train to visit his dying father (Tadeusz Kondrat) in a remote sanatorium he passes through almost dreamlike carriages. On arrival, he’s informed by Dr Gotard (Gustaw Holoubek) that he’s found a way of extending patients’ lives by slowing down time. Indeed, time seems to operate in obscure and strange ways inside the edifice, and after meeting a young boy whose photo stamp album triggers strange fantasies, Joseph begins to reimagine scenes from his life framed in the weird and wonderful.
The Hourglass Sanatorium is a dreamlike masterpiece of Polish film-making. Wojciech Has meanders into Gothic fantasies, often bizarrely portraying scenes from Joseph’s youth played by him as a grown man. There’s a carnival atmosphere during these adventures which is juxtaposed against the backdrop of the dormant and eerie sanatorium. The Hourglass Sanatorium is a masterpiece of Polish cinema.
The Hourglass Sanatorium is released on Blu-ray by Mr Bongo today.