26 October 2010 The Manuscript Found In Saragossa

On the second day of the festival, The Manuscript Found In Saragossa by Wojciech Jerzy Has (1965) – a masterpiece of Polish cinema, which was digitally restored under the “Kino RP” project – will be presented. This film fits perfectly the formula of the festival “Other worlds – other languages”.

Its literary prototype is the novel by Jan Potocki – an 18th-century poet, scholar, philosopher, soldier and traveller. The Manuscript Found In Saragossa, one of the most excellent works of the European Enlightenment, was published for the first time in French in 1813 and remained unknown in Poland for a long time (the Polish translation by Edmund Chojecki was published only in 1847). Even today Potocki’s work is more popular in Western Europe than in Poland. The novel written by the Polish aristocrat is an unusual, complicated and paradoxical work. It tells the story of a journey of a Spanish nobleman Alfonso van Worden through notorious Sierra Morena mountains. On his way, the protagonist meets various people whom he tells his story, and they reciprocate by telling theirs. Within these stories, new persons appear to present their histories, too. All of these elements are used for making up a sophisticated “story within a story”. The amazing adventures of the protagonist finally turn out to be a great mystification, which was supposed only to check his honour and courage.

The film version of the novel by Has is a fantastic and absorbing fairy tale resembling The Arabian Nights (the introduction to the film presented by Rabih Alameddine is not accidental), an adventurous swashbuckler film and an intellectual game with a dramaturgical order that is usually employed in the cinema. Apart from that, The Manuscript is also a stylish comedy set in an exotic dreamy culture of other lands, unfamiliar customs, unknown rituals and magic.

The film won many distinctions and awards, e.g. at festivals in Edinburgh (1965), San Sebastian (1965) and in Sitges (1969). Due to its charm and climate, the film became enormously popular and is surrounded by a specific worldwide cult. On the Internet, there are special websites devoted to this film in many various languages. The film has become an inspiration for many eminent film directors, including Luis Buńuel, Pedro Almodóvar, David Lynch, Francis Ford Coppola or Martin Scorsese. In 2002 the picture was released on DVD in the United States as a part of the series promoted by Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola.

Wojciech Jerzy Has (1925-2000) – Polish film director, scriptwriter, producer. Among the films made by him there are: Pętla (The Loop) (1957), Pożegnania (Farewells) (1958), Wspólny pokój (The Common Room) (1959), Rozstanie (The Parting) (1960), Złoto (Gold) (1961), Jak być kochaną (How To Be Loved) (1962), Lalka (The Doll) (1968), Sanatorium Pod Klepsydrą (1973) etc. His films are not just simple adaptations – they rediscover and reinterpret popular novels and the prose which seems to be untranslatable into the language of the film. The protagonists of those films have lost their way and seem to wander endlessly. They are eternal outsiders who do not feel good anywhere – people with an unstable and wounded psyche who find it difficult to find their own place in life. On the route of their peregrination there are always bars, cafes or taverns – the only places that provide a moment of oblivion.

The Kino RP (Polish Cinema) project has been implemented since 1998. Its aim to protect masterpieces of the Polish cinema against destruction through digital restoration. The project is prepared by the Digital Film Repository, TPS Film Studio, The Chimney Pot and Toya Studios. The main partners of the project are the Kadr Film Studio, the National Film Library, Oko Film Studio, Multikino and Pro-motion.