The Hourglass Sanatorium  

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The Hourglass Sanatorium (Sanatorium pod klepsydrą) is a 1973 Polish film directed by Wojciech Jerzy Has, starring Jan Nowicki, Tadeusz Kondrat, Mieczysław Voit, Halina Kowalska and Gustaw Holoubek. It is also known as The Sandglass in English speaking countries. The story follows a young Jewish man who visits his father in a mystical sanatorium where time does not behave normally. The film is an adaptation of Bruno Schulz's story collection Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass. It won the Jury Prize at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival.


Joseph (Jan Nowicki) travels through a dream-like world, taking a dilapidated train to visit his dying father, Jacob, in a sanatorium. When he arrives at the hospital, he finds the entire facility is going to ruin and no one seems to be in charge or even caring for the patients. Time appears to behave in unpredictable ways, reanimating the past in an elaborate artificial caprice.

Though Joseph is always shown as an adult, his behavior and the people around often depict him as a child. He befriends Rudolf, a young boy who owns a postage stamp album. The names of the stamps trigger a wealth of association and adventure in Joseph. Among the many occurrences in this visually potent phantasmagoria include Joseph re-entering childhood episodes with his wildly eccentric father (who lives with birds in an attic), being arrested by a mysterious unit of soldiers for having a dream that was severely criticized in high places, reflecting on a girl he fantasized about in his boyhood and commandeering a group of historic wax mannequins. Throughout his strange journey, an ominous blind train conductor reappears like a death figure.

Has also adds a series of reflections on the Holocaust that were not present in the original texts, reading Schulz's prose through the prism of the author's death during World War II and the demise of the world he described.


  • Jan Nowicki as Józef
  • Tadeusz Kondrat as Jakub, Józef's father
  • Irena Orska as Józef's mother
  • Halina Kowalska as Adela
  • Gustaw Holoubek as Dr. Gotard
  • Mieczysław Voit as train conductor
  • Bożena Adamek as Bianka
  • Ludwik Benoit as Szloma
  • Henryk Boukołowski as firefighter
  • Seweryn Dalecki as Teodor the clerk
  • Jerzy Przybylski as Mr. de V.
  • Julian Jabczyński as dignitary
  • Wiktor Sadecki as dignitary
  • Janina Sokołowska as nurse
  • Wojciech Standełło as a Jew
  • Tadeusz Schmidt as officer
  • Szymon Szurmiej as Jew reciting verses from Ecclesiastes false
  • Paweł Unrug as ornithologist
  • Filip Zylber as Rudolf
  • Jerzy Trela as jester

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Hourglass Sanatorium" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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