Saturday 23 February 2008

The Saragossa Manuscript

Me and Mathew often go to our local independent cinema, Showroom, as it's only 20 mins walk away and they tend to show an interesting variety of new and old films. Tonight (i'm writing this in the early hours of Saturday morning) we saw a Polish film from 1965 called "The Saragossa Manuscript", which is currently enjoying a re-release due to a new print.

I don't want to give a synopsis of the film here because this has been done elsewhere on the Internet, and far more precisely than I could manage.

However, what I liked about the film was the other-worldly atmosphere and labyrinthine plot. We see the film's protagonist, Alfons, experience repeat encounters with two sisters (together they seduce him many times) and two hanged brothers. These are both scenarios which are "recorded" in the book of the title, and pop up again and again and again.

At 3 hours, this is a long film. You really need to be prepared for a moderate amount of subtitles to read (so no dozing!), and I found my eyes were a bit sore afterwards. It makes use of that length by creating lots of deja-vu moments and repeating themes. In the second half of the film, stories and flashbacks are told, in which more stories and flashbacks are layered. This creates a dream-like feeling - you recognise repeated scenarios, but the tales are so long and meandering that you often find yourself beconing lost in the maze and confused at being taken on yet another circular side-story. Mathew and me looked at each other during the film a few times to confirm that we were both confused - but also amused - by the complicated stream of events. But it gradually starts to make sense - well, sort of - and there's an interesting twist at the end which I won't spoil for you. The unhinged, minimal soundtrack enhances the unreal, unsettling feeling of the film and is also a nice contrast to the lighter, slightly comical moments.

I'm glad I saw this memorable, absorbing film with its many layers of events, real and imagined.


  1. hey thanks! i always love a new movie and i am soooo a sucker for anything with subtitles... glutton for punishment i guess! thanks i will put this on my list to see.

  2. Hi Joey's dream Garden

    Just to let you know about a new site set up to accompany the release of Saragossa on DVD (Mr Bongo 2008).

    Hope this is of use to you

    Timjim (site creator)

    PS Any chance of a link?


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