DIRECTOR: Wojciech Has
SCREENPLAY: Tadeusz Kwiatkowski
STARRING: Zbigniew Cybulski, Iga Cembrzynska, Joanna Jedryka
RUNNING TIME: 183 mins
Reviewed by Guy Adams
Beautifully restored, The Saragossa Manuscript has never been easier to lose yourself in. Celebrated by directors such as David Lynch and Luis Bunuel, it’s a sprawling puzzle-box of stories, a hypnotic and engrossing labyrinth that pulls viewers out of the mundane real world and into a monochrome fantasy like no other.
When two soldiers discover an old book in a war torn inn, they begin to read, transporting both themselves and us into the misadventures of Alfonso van Worden, a captain in the Walloon Guard. Seduced by a pair of (possibly demonic) sisters, he loses grip on reality as we are pulled from one story to another, sinking – Inception-like – from one fictional world to another. Soon it becomes impossible to say if we’ll ever escape this nest of narratives.
Genuinely unsettling one minute, comical the next, the world of The Saragossa Manuscript is a dream state captured on celluloid and has never looked better than it does here. A compulsory purchase for anyone wanting to know what film can become if allowed to dream.