Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rękopis znaleziony w Saragossie (The Manuscript Found in Saragossa; 1965)

"How very confusing it all is!" Declares a maiden during a Gypsy's tale in Woljeich Has' The Saragossa Manuscripts. "One can hardly keep up!" Directed by Woljeich Has, the film is based on the famous 19th century novel by Jan Potacki. The film runs like a Chaucer-like romp, going from story to story without blinking an eye. Probably one of the more famous films to appear from the Polish New Wave, the film proves that you hardly need a traditional three act structure or conventional editing to make a wildly entertaining film. Oddly the first scene begins with a handful of people we never see again. During the Napoleonic Wars two men from two enemy lines stumble on a curious book in the village of Saragossa, they immediatley lose interest in the looming war surrounding them and begin to read. This immediatley shuttles into the first of several jarring jump cuts, where we are lead into a strange story in the 1700's, where we meet Alfonso, who travels with his servants through the Sierra Morena mountains, they quickly abandon him once they become afraid of the apparent ghosts that haunt the inn they chance upon. This scene begins with a thrilling establishing shot of the three roaming a surreal, haunting landscape of strange rock formations and trees reminescent of German Expressionism, where we understand that we are fully engrossed in this surreal, dream like world. Alfonso is then seduced by two mysterious African Princesses who live in an elaborate lair underneath the inn. We are immediatley shown a jump cut of Alfonso waking up outside near the mountains, underneath two rotting corpses on nooses and his servant covered in boils. The film is sprinkled throughout with several jump cuts that shuttle from someone telling another story to another person, and eventually coming back to them, and then back to another story making the experience a mad, challenging puzzle of a film. Has shows these various jump cuts to show that dream and reality are not quite what they seem, and that jumping from one story to another may not nessicarily mean coming back to any solid ground at all, making us feel just as confused and mistified as the characters who are being duped by mysterious demons and ghosts. Throughout the film, Alfonso is trying to decipher whether he is in the dreaming world or the waking world and this is merely a part of Has using editing to fully evoke this important aspect of the story.

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