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The Hourglass Sanatorium (1973)
"Sanatorium pod klepsydra" (original title)

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Set in pre- World War II era. A young man is on a strange train to see his dying father in a sanatorium. But the place is going to ruin and recalls a lot of memories from the past. He is ... See full summary »


(as Wojciech J. Has)


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Title: The Hourglass Sanatorium (1973)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jan Nowicki ...
Tadeusz Kondrat ...
Jakub - Józef's father
Irena Orska ...
Józef's mother
Halina Kowalska ...
Gustaw Holoubek ...
Dr. Gotard
Mieczyslaw Voit ...
Blind Conductor
Bozena Adamek ...
Ludwik Benoit ...
Henryk Boukolowski ...
Seweryn Dalecki ...
Julian Jabczynski ...
Jerzy Przybylski ...
Mr. de Voss
Wiktor Sadecki ...
Janina Sokolowska ...
Wojciech Standello ...
Jew Interlocutor in Restaurant


Set in pre- World War II era. A young man is on a strange train to see his dying father in a sanatorium. But the place is going to ruin and recalls a lot of memories from the past. He is beset by soldiers from the past, colonial black mercenaries, girls from his early life, and his parents. It is an interior adventure, with unusual atmospheric flair and extraordinary sets. Written by Polish Cinema Database <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

train | soldier | memory | bird | fog | See All (31) »


Drama | Fantasy


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Release Date:

12 December 1973 (Poland)  »

Also Known As:

The Hourglass Sanatorium  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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Did You Know?


Wojciech Has worked on this project for five years. See more »

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User Reviews

19 August 2011 | by (Greece) – See all my reviews

At the day of writing this, the great Chilean filmmaker Raoul Ruiz passed away. This is dedicated to him - a film, I like to think, he would have loved.

This is an exceptional film that I will cherish for a number of reasons. It's the kind of film I'm looking for, that places consciousness within itself to give us actual in-sight of our place in the world of narratives.

For afar, it is a little like Jodorowsky; the heavy, symbolist system visualized inside a cacophony. But it ventures freely beyond the threshold where Jodorowsky (and most filmmakers) barely fumbled; it is a story about unconscious stories about the broader metaphysical narrative from which they flow and illustrate.

It begins with the promise of a journey, a common motif in early myth; a man's symbolic descent in the underworld in search of his father. But a little preamble first.

It is said that the best kept secret in our systematized knowledge of the world, is that the narrative of the world is one. It has been fractured from the one into many, according to the provincial peculiarities of human experience, yet taken together each of the symbolic motifs or shadowy shapes that comprise it, insinuate the same fabric of the experienced world.

I'm not just waxing here, what I mean is this; it would be an astonishing coincidence, for example, if the symbolic rites and totems that instructed social life in early tribal societies had merely chanced to re-emerge so faithfully as dream images in a modern society where the earlier symbolic language has been largely rationalized or explained away. The same images, the same narratives, seem to bubble forth in identical repetition; as though something in the soul calls out for them.

Two observations further elucidate this. In the places that ancient cities were built like temples, with clearly defined pattern that reflected above (usually in circles), denizens lived within the dimensions of their symbol. They were situated directly inside the blueprint of their cosmology, one they had constructed to reflect the cosmos.

The reverse of this is the mandala of the Buddhists, as sacred space for the concentration of the mind. The image was not the painted sum of its counterparts, but a way of passage. Meditations practiced on this symbol are directed from the symbolic world into the world at large; so that, outside the temple, the entire world becomes a support for meditation.

In the film, it is the cosmologic blueprint that becomes situated inside the person.

On a deeper level, both these describe the same thing; the spiritual effort of aligning the center inside with the center outside, so that the cycles of life become one. Can we say this is the forgotten knowledge? Modern life is scattered in the chaos of ever-changing peripheries. We build - and live - in random.

So this is what the filmmaker does. Our man, having embarked on his inner journey, is constantly frustrated by the apparent randomness of the narrative he participates in. He turns for guidance to a child, an inner child who is his heir in the dreamlike underworld, holding a book filled with stamps about places - a book of names and forms that symbolically encompasses the totality of the catalogued world; but there is no answer there, meaning another world extends from our catalogue of it which cannot be fully accounted for.

And herein lies the key. From inside his limited perspective in the fictional world, the protagonist is baffled, exasperated for meaning. But we, observing from the level of gods, can recognize first pattern, and then that the protagonist, who seems to himself to be a hapless stooge, to be the one creating the narrative.

It is stunning stuff if you contemplate it a little. There are, of course, the notions about nested stories. The journey that transports across different levels of symbolic life; there is the place where history is a gallery of the pliable, lifeless mannequins of famous persons; elsewhere, language is shown to be the random teetering of birds.

All this - at every turn - is weaved inside the one narrative, such a wonderful construct overall.

So, there is the world, the space of human experience limited by mechanisms of reason; our symbolic translation in terms of a graven image; our metaphoric understanding of the image as applicable to both the personal and cosmic cycles (being-nonbeing, light-dark); our metaphysical grasp of the meaning of those cycles within the larger cycle of sentience that observes them; and finally, the threshold once crossed and returned from, the unbound sentience now effortlessly understands all these things to be emanations of the one source, the one cycle-narrative.

Having aligned all these cycles, the film is - at every point - at the center of each and all.

This is what is actually valuable about meditation. It is the very embodiment of the passage within. We realize inside, that it was only coincidence from within the limited view of human observation; from above, that is to say outside the obstructions of emotion and reason, this coincidence of opposites becomes harmonious plan.

When Zen Masters sung that the entire world was like the moon reflected in the evening dewdrops, they point to this; that this one image cast from a reflection above, would not be possible without the image above to cast the reflection. In this way, the entire experienced world as perceived by us, reflects on us the source of everything. True perception is this effort to embody in seeing.

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