The Saragossa Manuscript

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.



Total Count: 14


Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,386
User image

Movie Info

Alfons (Zbigniew Cybulski) is a young army captain who meets two women of Moorish ancestry at what appears to be a deserted inn near Madrid. They tell Alfons he is the descendant of a noble family and that he must undergo a series of challenging missions to prove himself. A magician tries to take his soul, and he is visited by ghosts near the mountains of Madrid. Author Jan Poticki committed suicide a year after the symbolic and allusive book this movie was based on was published.


Zbigniew Cybulski
as Capt. Alfons van Worden
Leon Niemczyk
as Don Avadoro
Beata Tyszkiewicz
as Dona Rebeca Uzeda
Ludwik Benoit
as Pascheco's Father
Stanislaw Igar
as Don Gaspar Soarez
Iga Cembrzynska
as Princess Emina
Joanna Jedryka
as Princess Zibelda
Slawomir Linder
as van Worden's Father
Miroslawa Lombardo
as van Worden's Mother
Pola Raksa
as Inezilla
August Kowalczyk
as Envoy of the Holy Inquisition
Gustaw Holoubek
as Don Pedro Velasquez
Krzysztof Litwin
as Don Lopez Soarez
View All

Critic Reviews for The Saragossa Manuscript

All Critics (14) | Top Critics (5)

  • This three-hour swirl of Polish phantasmagoria, from 1965, is an epic piece of japery; it celebrates visions and magic by means of labyrinthine storytelling.

    Apr 24, 2017 | Full Review…
  • The director's eye for baroque black-and-white imagery puts him behind only Bava and Welles, while the film's sharp social satire gives heft to its ambition.

    Apr 3, 2008 | Rating: 5/6

    David Fear

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • By any standard, a long strange trip.

    Apr 2, 2008
  • Infus[es] a similar unearthly cadenceo the swashbuckling genre that Jodorowski did to the western with El Topo.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Derek Adams

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • These trials suggest a goofy, sprawling, all-purpose allegory so overstuffed with symbolism that it plays as a kind of epic spoof of the form.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Rating: 4/5
  • Has reaches the epitome of his dazzling talent for warping cinematic time in this three hour epic, a giddy, almost unclassifiable work with elements from such disparate genre works as "The Brides of Dracula" to swashbucklers and European sex farces.

    Apr 10, 2015 | Rating: A | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Saragossa Manuscript

  • Jul 28, 2012
    the excitement imbued of a long haul flight. a masterpiece or a bandwagon hopped onto engendered by a case of bad editing mistaken for genius?
    Sanity Assassin ! Super Reviewer
  • Jan 19, 2011
    Great movie. Kinda sucky American DVD though. The aspect ratio looks wrong and no extras to speak of. This film has so much going on it practically cries out for a scholarly commentary.
    Bob S Super Reviewer
  • Jul 17, 2010
    Polish black and white film about Alfonso van Worden, captain in the Walloon Guard. What happens to him, and then what happens to other people, and then stories that turn into other stories ..... a bit like the Thousand and One Arabian Nights, except it only took me four consecutive evenings to get all the way through it - partly the 3 hour viewing time, partly the multiple plots requiring concentration, and mostly because I'm rubbish at remembering names and faces. Which is not to say its dull, it isn't, more to say my brain hurts easily. According to Wikipedia, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Luis Buñuel, David Lynch, Lars von Trier, Harvey Keitel and Jerry Garcia have at various times described The Saragossa Manuscript as their favorite film. Bet their brans didn't hurt.
    Lesley N Super Reviewer
  • Nov 09, 2009
    <i>"<b>-</b> We are like blind men lost in the streets of a big city. The streets lead to a goal, but we often return to the same places to get to where we want to be. I can see a few little streets here which, as it is now, are going nowhere. New combinations have to be arranged, then the whole will be clear, because one man cannot invent something that another cannot solve. <b>-</b> I no longer follow."</i> <CENTER><u>REKOPIS ZNALEZIONY W SARAGOSSIE (1965)</u></CENTER> <b>Director:</b> Wojciech Has <b>Country:</b> Poland <b>Genre:</b> Drama / Fantasy <b>Length:</b> 182 minutes <CENTER><a href="¤t=SaragossaManuscript.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="" border="0" alt="Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie,The Saragossa Manuscript,Surrealism,Wojciech Has"></a></CENTER> Luis Buñuel, a cinema master who seldom watched movies more than once, was so fascinated by Wojciech Has' masterpiece titled <i>Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie</i>, that he saw it three times. Surrealism is a highly versatile film subgenre, and in this case, the Polish director decides to deliciously construct the most inventive ride of lunacy! Besides being the most film by the director, a fact that clearly indicates that he obtained international recognition, <i>Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie</i> is a film that can be interpreted in several ways. No matter how seemingly retarded the interpretation is, that is the correct one. It was highly influenced by past satirical masterpieces of fantasy, but it also establishes a landmark in unconventional storytelling, unconditional comedy and the importance of artistic subjectivity. With an extremely confusing and attractive mixture of events, incredible incidents, a gorgeous sense of humor, highly implied eroticism and a rarely-seen audacity, this film is arguably the best and most creative Polish work of art, leaving room for philosophical discussion, but smartly adding direct questionings towards the current way of life. The film takes place during the Napoleonic wars. It opens with an officer entering an abandoned house and finding a book that relates the story of his grandfather Alfons van Worden, captain in the Walloon guard. On his way of seeking the shortest route through the Sierra Morena, he sups with two Islamic princesses at an inn named Venta Quemada. After being seduced and being called their lost cousin, he wakes up next to corpses in the middle of a gallows. The rest of the movie puts van Worden in unbelievable situations of real and imagined dementia, travelling to unusual places and hearing stories within stories within stories within stories within stories of hilarious anecdotes and unfaithful love. The film obtained a Special Award at the Cinema Writers Circle Awards, Spain, in the year of 1972 under the category of "Movies of special movie theatres". Captain Alfons van Worden repeats that he belongs to the Walloon guard around five times. He is a man of pretentious honor, patriotism and courage, but perhaps it is the force and irony of destiny the one that drives him into a complex web of crazy sequences. Symbolisms abound and their particular meaning is subject to complete relativity. He is seduced by enchanting women who, according to them, have never met a man in their lives, which has led them to express their love to each other. He wakes up under corpses in gallows. He is told an extremely creepy story involving ghosts and violence by a Catholic priest and his supposedly possessed goatherd who stops being possessed under the religious commands of the priest. He wakes up under corpses in the same gallows. At this point, the film makes a clear statement. The mere purpose of the Saragossa Manuscript, considering its constant, unexplainable and senseless apparitions throughout, is to cause confusion and psychological craziness. It is not a mental journey that is supposed to be taken in its most literal form. We do not longer know the relevance of particular events portrayed until they are explained later on in the film and, moments after, the explanation that had been already given is proved wrong... The importance of early sudden and random appearances of characters is explained several segments later. <i>Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie</i> definitely contains one of the best, smartest and most complicated screenplays in the entire history of moviemaking. Such creation laughs when pretending to be all over the place when it actually isn't. To understand the unsettled timeline and the deceiving chronology is not a difficult task. The real magic and complexity relies on the work of deciphering the meaning of the aforementioned structure. The film is explicitly divided into two parts. The first part focuses on the small process of surrealistic comedy that is slowly built inside the protagonist's mind, destroying all possible logical interpretation and making blasphemous references towards the modern culture, lesbianism, sexuality, carnality and the Catholic religion. In the second part, the now terrifying manuscript acquires a much stronger presence and a more significant philosophical meaning, and the "captain of the Walloon guard" hears an endless story-within-story narration of impossible experiences that end up making the respective personalities and experiences of the displayed personages to collide in a climax that, at the end, make more sense. The possible intention of adapting a surrealist story to the late eighteenth century is unexplained, yet it is utterly irrelevant. It is the gorgeousness, the elegance, the insanity and the delicacy of the characters the ones that make of <i>Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie</i> a vehicle of senselessness. A visually outstanding art direction, a great vastness of character richness, a royal costume design worth of the royal halls of any location in Europe and a superbly written adaptation of Jan Potocki's original novel exalt the grandiosity of a Manuscript that seems to have been made in order to cause unstoppable existential dooms. The film is plagued with talented Polish stars offering very convincing performances and a highly artistic cinematography makes the film to derive the possibility of becoming a top-notch experience set in turbulent times. The futility of war, the implications of violence, the most common consequences of mindless sex and seduction, memorable dialogues, ghastly tales, disturbing imagery, a vaudevillian environment, a delightful use of the Spanish language and an omniscient God orchestrating a complex web of impossible sequences and an opening-credits sequence featuring the paintings of famous surrealists make of this masterpiece one of a kind. The influence of <i>Rekopis Znaleziony w Saragossie</i> is an element that cannot be rejected. It is troubling, scandalous, daring... and also visionary! Surrealism had never been subject to such a multiphacetic and polished Polish brilliance. The multitalented aspects that govern this provocative piece of art from beginning to end seems to be the result of the conglomeration of every single signature of the most famous and visionary poets put into a single feature film of three hours. Time is erased, logic is raped, beauty is distorted, discretion is invited to a party of lavishness and snobbishness, and cinema adopts a new face of inventiveness and intelligence. Repetitive elements emphasize the ridiculousness of the plot and the huge audacity that Wojciech Has had to adopt. A theatrical feeling and a dramatist perspective is briefly shown, but just for the fun of it, like if William Shakespeare had written a play under the influence of a strong hallucinogenic. It is one of the greatest fantasy films ever made. 100/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer

The Saragossa Manuscript Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

News & Features