Written by: Michael Den Boer on October 5th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: Poland, 1973
Director: Wojciech Has
Writer: Wojciech Has
Adpated From: Bruno Schulz story “Santorium pod Klepsydra”
Cast: Jan Nowicki, Tadeusz Kondrat, Irena Orska, Halina Kowalska, Gustaw Holoubek, Mieczyslaw Voit, Bozena Adamek
BluRay released: September 7th, 2015
Approximate running time: 125 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Polish
BluRay Release: Mr. Bongo
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: £9.99 (UK)
The Hourglass Sanatorium was written and directed by Wojciech Has whose other notable films include, The Saragossa Manuscript and The Doll. And though the screenplay for The Hourglass Sanatorium was primarily adapted from Bruno Schulz’s story collection Sanatorium under the Sign of the Hourglass. It is not a literal adaption and the film also adapts of stories also written by Bruno Schultz into its narrative. Also there is a clear foreshadowing of the holocaust throughout Shultz’s literature and it is in this regard where this film remains the most faithful to its source.
To say that this film’s narrative is challenging would be a gross overstatement. In fact there are so many layers to this film that trying to understand them all in one viewer would be a futile affair. Needless to say this is the type of film that takes several viewing to fully appreciate all it has to offer. As mentioned before the narrative is far from conventional and though the narrative feels as though a series of random moments have been string together. These moments when examined by themselves lack the same potency they possess when viewed within the parameters of the story at hand.
Through his journey to protagonist of this film meets a nurse and doctor who run the dilapidated sanatorium where his father is being taken care of. Other characters he meets include a childhood friend who stamp book ignites long forgotten memories and a wax museum filled with realistic mannequins which is located on land in the wilderness. More characters he meets include voluptuous women with great appetites, rabbis who do a song and dance and several visits from his recently departed father.
When it comes to the look of this film, it visuals and production design one would be hard pressed to find any flaws in them. With the combination of these two elements ensure that there is never a shortage of atmosphere and not to be overlooked is Jerzy Maksymiuk’s evocative score for this film. And when it comes to the performances in this film the entire cast are all great in their respective roles, especially Jan Nowicki in the role of Józef, this film’s protagonist. His utterly convincing performance does a remarkable job conveying the wide range of emotions on display throughout this film.
The Hourglass Sanatorium comes on a 50 GB dual layer (33.1 GB) BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. The source used for this transfer is in great shape as colors and flesh tones look accurate, black and contrast levels look consistently strong and details look crisp. Also grain look natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Polish and removable English subtitles have been included with this film. There are no issues with background noise or distortion, everything sounds balanced and dialog always comes through clearly. Also when it comes to range and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack this film does a remarkable job. It should be noted that the tech specs on the Blu-Ray case incorrectly lists this audio mix as DTS-HD mono.
This release comes with no extra content. There are two options on the main menu, play feature or chapter selection.
Overall The Hourglass Sanatorium gets a solid audio / video from Mr. Bongo.