The Manuscript Found in Saragossa is a prime example of a brilliantly conceived frame-tale; stories found within a story. Written by Count Jan Potocki, it was published in the 19th Century but not fully completed at the time of the author’s suicide. Polish filmmaker Wojciech Has adapted it for The Saragossa Manuscript in 1965 and it looks sumptuous in this hi-definition restoration.
Set during the Napoleonic Wars, two officer discover a manuscript in an abandoned house. The book tells the tale of one of the Spanish officer’s grandfather Alphonso van Worden (Zbigniew Cybulski) who, several decades earlier, had travelled through the region. Along his journey he has to contend with evil spirits, bandits and The Spanish Inquisition. He meets several people along the way including a Kabbalist, a gypsy and a sultan, who tell him stories of their own.
The Saragossa Manuscript is a beautifully made film which feels epic both in terms of scope and intention. It’s wrapped in layer upon layer of mystery, each tale drawing the viewer further in. It has the feel of a classic adventure film with added elements of erotica, the grotesque and Gothic; unravelling like a traditional fairytale without the Disney airbrushing. Shrouded in mystery, it’s a great film and a fine example of Eastern European mysticism and dark humour.
The Saragossa Manuscript is released on Blu-ray by Mr Bongo on Monday.