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The Saragossa Manuscript
The Saragossa Manuscript Described by world
  famous directors,
  including Martin Scorsese,
  Francis Ford Coppola
  and Luis Bunuel, and rock
  star Jerry Garcia, as their
  favourite film, Worcieck
  Has’ masterpiece The
  Saragossa Manuscript
(Rekopis znaleziony w
) is a weird
  and wonderful Polish film
  that is unlike any other
  film ever made. In fact,
  it was so favoured by
Jerry Garcia and Martin
  Scorsese that they helped
  fund its initial restoration...”

A TRUE WORLD CINEMA CLASSIC, The Saragossa Manuscript is a darkly profound and thought-provoking series of adventure stories surrounding a mysterious ancient book. Full of strangely disturbing and erotic drawings, the book is found during the Napoleonic wars by a soldier, Walloon Guard Captain Alphonse Van Worden (played by Zbigniew Cybulski the Polish James Dean), and it appears to be about his grandfather. So fascinated is he with the illustrations that he doesn't turn a hair when an enemy soldier appears but instead shares the experience with him.

The Saragossa Manuscript

Van Worden goes on to live out the book's obscure, intriguing and diabolical storylines as he embarks on a journey across the stark landscapes of 17th Century Spain — a desolate landscape populated with ghosts, seductive demons, debauched royalty and ethereal priests. The Saragossa Manuscript benefits from being shot in mono-chrome as it is a film of shadows — a sinister and nightmarish journey to the dark side.

The Saragossa Manuscript is not — as anyone who has ever watched these irresistible classics will know — remotely like the gore-filled horror films of today. It is rather more subtle and leaves much to the imagin-ation. This masterpiece recently enjoyed a fantastic film launch at the NFT — complete with live music performed by The Recording Angel Ensemble and followed by a successful three-week theatrical run. Now it is to make its DVD debut in a carefully-restored, full 180-minute version, courtesy of Mr Bongo Films, on 7 April (2008).

Based on the book written in French between 1797 and 1812 by
the highly-esteemed Count Jan Potrocki, the film creates an eerie, mysterious and rather disturbing world of the supernatural. The Saragossa Manuscript is a mystical text that spans centuries and nations, revealing a wealth of sometimes humorous, sometimes horrifying stories that climax to the final, chilling revelation.

In the first story, Alphonse is riding towards Castile with his super-stitious companions — one of whom disappears, supposedly taken by the evil ghosts — and enters the inn Venta Quemada, where he is entertained by two Muslim ladies — Emina and her sister Zibelda — who claim to be related to him. In the morning he wakes up to find himself at the foot of a gallows with two hanging men and a pile of skulls — a recurring event during the film.

The Saragossa Manuscript

He is warned by a hermit: "Beware all temptations; Think about your soul's salvation. Devils are tempters; beware of Satan. You spent last night at the Venta Quemada… You could be haunted by two hanged men." Another story tells of a man in love with his stepmother's sister, Inizillia, who tries to meet her secretly with the help of his stepmother Camilla. "It's been quiet since those two thugs, the Zota brothers, were hanged…" but, he is told, "cruel gangs are roving the Sierra Morena."

In further stories there are zombies and Alphonse is arrested by the Inquisition; he visits a neglected castle in the Ardennes and he con-sorts with gypsies. In one story the captain is given some verses of Shir Ha Shi Mir, which is said to contain the purest beauty of poetry. "In Hebrew, every letter is a number; every word a very wise com-bination and if it is pronounced with the right exhalation and accent one may move mountains and drain rivers. Adonai created the world with a word…"

A blonde girl, watching from a Fifteenth Century Castle window as the gypsies approach, says: "Good company is more precious than wealth or black magic" and Don Pedro, in another story, says poignantly: "Doses of suspense are the sign of a master."

Despairs and frustrations are scattered to the mists of time but where does reality end and fantasy take over? Very strange and intense.
The intriguing stylistic flourishes sit well against the wonderful sound-track, which was composed by Krzyszt Penderecki, renowned for the scores of The Shining and Wild At Heart.

The Saragossa Manuscript is due for release on 7 April (2008) with
an RRP of £14.99.

"I love The Saragossa Manuscript… exceptional" — Luis Bunuel

"Simultaneously horrific, erotic and funny… this is one mother of a film" — David Lynch

"This is a complex and exhilarating film that ranks among the most remarkable achievements of 1960s European cinema" — Radio Times

"A tortuously inventive tale; miss it at your peril!" — MotorBar