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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Hourglass Sanatorium aka "Sanatorium pod klepsydra" [Blu-ray]

 

(Wojciech Has, 1973)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Film Polski Film Agency

Video: Zebra (DMMS Media Distribution)

 

Disc:

Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:04:30.250 

Disc Size: 42,964,227,055 bytes

Feature Size: 37,270,054,464 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.43 Mbps

Chapters: 13

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: February, 2014

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 24 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio Polish 1743 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1743 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Descriptive Audio: LPCM Audio Polish 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), Polish, none

 

Extras:

The cover, booklet and extras are in all Polish only (unknown)

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: A young man named Joseph (Jan Nowicki) visits a dilapidated Sanatorium to see his father Jakob (Tadeusz Konrad). On his arrival, a sinister doctor informs him that his father had stopped breathing but hasn't died yet, perhaps due to Joseph's arrival which may have halted time in the sanatorium. Joseph undertakes a strange journey through the many rooms of the sanatorium, each of which conjures worlds composed of his memories, dreams and nightmares. Adapted from a collection of short stories by Polish-Jewish writer Bruno Schulz, The Hourglass Sanatorium dispenses with traditional narrative, fashioning an audiovisual mosaic that blurs the line between reality and fantasy. As in The Saragossa Manuscript, Wojciech J. Has fashions a cinematic universe composed with byzantine sets, hallucinatory images and a gallery of grotesque characters. However his magical-realist vision of pre-WW2 Poland is tinged with the sober consciousness of the violence that would follow and the recreation of Joseph's childhood in a Jewish ghetto, foreshadowing the Holocaust.

 

 

The Film:

There is an amazing fluidity to Wojciech Has's ''The Sandglass,'' a 1973 adaptation of a story by the Polish writer Bruno Schulz. There's also a good deal of obscurity, since each scene in this dreamlike fantasy film leads into its successor with no apparent logic or urgency. ''The Sandglass,'' which is gracefully directed and only marginally exasperating, opens today at the Thalia.

The story on which it is based, ''The Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass,'' concerns a young man named Joseph who visits his dying father in a mysterious, half-abandoned sanatorium. It is explained to Joseph, to the extent that anything is explained, that in this place time lacks its usual meaning, and that events that might not ordinarily overlap can coexist here. Joseph soon finds himself in a morass of memories, fantasies and visions which express the longings and frustrations of his boyhood and to some extent the dangers facing his countrymen at the time the story was written. Mr. Schulz, a Polish Jew, was killed by the SS in his hometown in 1942.

Excerpt from Janet Maslin at the NY Times located HERE

"The Sandglass" is a bewilderment of dreams, a labyrinth of decay. Written and directed by Wojciech J. Has in 1973, this non-narrative work was based on a collection of short stories by "Poland's Kafka," Bruno Schulz. Hailed as a classic, it is nevertheless a torturous trip down the rapids of the stream of consciousness.

Jan Nowicki is the protagonist, the child-man Joseph, who arrives at a ruined gothic sanitarium to visit his father, Jacob (Tadeusz Kondrat). The sanitarium, overrun with weeds and cobwebs, is attended by Dr. Gotard (Gustow Holoubek) and a fetching nurse who, like all the other dream girls herein, seldom fastens her garments. Sexual fantasy, biblical parable and childhood memories tangle in a squirrel's nest of surrealities.

In the sanitarium, Joseph finds that Dr. Gotard is maintaining his father's life signs by slowing down time. In fact, here time has come to a full stop and has started to travel backward. Thus, Joseph is able to revisit his youth in a Hasidic village. Not only are his old friends and family there, but so are the Three Wise Men with advice on buying on credit, as well as some samba-dancing, saber-wielding Haitian soldiers from his boyhood fantasies.

Excerpt from The Washington Post  located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Firstly, this is very cool having another film on Blu-ray by Wojciech Has, the director of The Saragossa Manuscript. The Hourglass Sanatorium is in 1.85:1 which, despite IMDb, I have been told is correct (Mr. Bongo's 2008 PAL DVD was 1.78:1). Composition looks fairly correct. Researching further this was shot in 1:85:1 and then matted in scope for the release.  This DMMS Blu-ray provides a fine presentation. The image quality shows minute grain and detail impressive in close-ups. It can look a tad waxy at times but not caked-on. The disc is dual-layered with a max'ed out bitrate and comes from a fine source print. The interiors have a greenish hue (which may very well be correct) and I noted no noise whatsoever. Contrast is nicely layered and supports the film very well. The 1080P is not perfect but I think it looks quite impressive in-motion.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Options for a DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround at 1743 kbps or, for audio description - a linear PCM stereo at 1536 kbps. The surround has some separations although not very crisp There was depth notable in Jerzy Maksymiuk brooding score that suits the dilapidated sanatorium very well. Like Saragossa I noted a bit of a sync issue but didn't find it overly distracting. There are optional English, and Polish subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.

 

Extras :

The cover, booklet and extras are in all Polish only (unknown) but only trailers and there doesn't appear to be anything of a substantial nature (ie. nothing is longer than 2.5 minutes.)

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
The Hourglass Sanatorium is an immensely enjoyable film experience with multiple interpretations and subtleties.  The protagonist's journey is not so much for his father, but through his own, and others, past. The film becomes non-linear with marvelously artistic sets bordering on Fellini-esque surrealism. It is totally fascinating. Being so visual it is one of those film that you definitely want on Blu-ray. This distributor continues to impress and we will pursue more from them. Certainly we give this a strong recommendation! 

Gary Tooze

March 24th, 2014

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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