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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



Theatrical: Film Polski Film Agency

Video: Zebra (DMMS Media Distribution) / Mr. Bongo



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

Runtime: 2:04:30.250 / 2:04:30.250  

Disc Size: 42,964,227,055 bytes / 35,622,274,997 bytes

Feature Size: 37,270,054,464 bytes / 35,546,865,216 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.43 Mbps / 34.43 Mbps

Chapters: 13 (both)

Case: Booky-style Blu-ray case / Black Blu-ray case

Release date: February, 2014 / September 7th, 2015


Video (both):

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 24 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



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

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)



English (SDH), Polish, none

English, none



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





1) Zebra - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Mr. Bongo - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM



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.


Similar to Mr. Bongo's The Saragossa Manuscript Blu-ray (Review HERE):

1) It is the exact same running time as the Zebra Blu-ray release - down the the 1/1000th of a second. (NOTE: This, alone, is a real telltale as we've seen on the few Spanish Blu-ray bootlegs we've reviewed in the past 3 years.)

2) Audio transfer is the exact same as the Zebra Blu-ray release - DTS-HD Master - 1743 kbps 5.1 - 16 bit.

3) The bitrate and bitrate graph are exactly the same.

4) Subtitle font is exact same style and size as the Zebra Blu-ray release.

5) The screener disc is labeled "The Saragossa Manuscript" but the film was clearly The Hourglass Sanatorium. And this was vice-versa for the other Blu-ray screener disc.

6) The screener disc states it is region 'B'. It is definitely region FREE (same with "The Saragossa Manuscript").

Video/Audio quality is the same on both Blu-rays, slightly less technically robust on the visuals but my eye (and ears) and software can't distinguish significant differences. There are optional English subtitles but no extras at all.

I can only assume, that this is a legal, or illegal, port of the Polish release. It's a very worthy disc to own for any Cinephile Blu-ray library.





1) Zebra - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Mr. Bongo - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1) Zebra - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Mr. Bongo - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1) Zebra - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Mr. Bongo - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM



1) Zebra - Region FREE - Blu-ray TOP

2) Mr. Bongo - Region FREE - Blu-ray BOTTOM



More Blu-ray Captures












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.)



Mr. Bongo - Region FREE - Blu-ray


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.

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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
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Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

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Gary W. Tooze






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