Saturday, 16 July 2011

Review - The Hourglass Sanitorium (1973 - Dir. Wojciech Has)

Crikey. Where to start with this one. Well, it's the first winner of the Werner Herzog obscurendure award because it is very obscure and a major test of endurance at 124 minutes, but it does have its good points.

Visually, this Polish film is a treat. If you took any still frame from the film and showed it to me, I'd think it looked just my cup of tea: bleak, atmospheric, haunting and dreamlike. Occasionally, there are spots of vibrant colour within the grey surroundings and it looks stunning. 

Józef's father has been sent to a sanatorium and when he goes to visit, he finds a crumbling, overgrown, rundown hospital. He sees his father. Time goes a bit funny. Then we're into a massive dreamlike sequence. Of which I understood nothing.

Like Shakespeare, I understand all the words, but string them all together and I haven't got a clue. I know I'm a thick northerner, but this film is surely impenetrable and virtually inaccessible to 99% of the population. Of the 1% left they probably wouldn't want to watch it either. But somewhere there will be someone who understands and enjoys it. Someone very clever. Not me then.

The beautiful final images remind me of The Beyond. I wonder if Fulci had seen this film and homaged/thieved from it. Glad he did though. Way better film. I don't feel qualified to give The Hourglass Sanitorium a rating. Most people would give it a 0 and not get through 20 minutes of it. A very small percentage may give it a 10, I don't know. I think, based on it being gorgeous visually, I'll give it a...

If you like this you could also try:
The Saragossa Manuscript, any Werner Herzog film.

Only the first three minutes of this are from The Hourglass Sanitorium (as if you care).


  1. 2 out of 10 for The Hourglass Sanitorium - what an imbecile !!!

    1. Yep, I admit it's beyond me. Did you read the review?