Wojciech Jerzy Has, a major but internationally lesser-known master of Polish cinema, died in 2000 at the age of 75 in Lodz, home of the renowned Film School where he had taught since 1974 and which he directed till 1996. Following a productive career in documentaries, Has had started making fiction films during the flowering of Polish cinema in the mid-fifties, but unlike the early films of Wajda and Munk, his did not focus on the war and its aftermath. Only a couple of his films reached audiences beyond Poland and international film festivals, most notably the legendary Saragossa Manuscript, a favorite of Luis Buñuel, Martin Scorsese, and Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.
At the heart of nearly every Has film is the idea of the journey – sometimes tangible, as in The Saragossa Manuscript, and sometimes spiritual, as in The Hourglass Sanatorium. In the course of these odysseys, his protagonists enter exotic and often menacing worlds that seem as much projections of fears or desires as they do real locations.
The Saragossa Manuscript screens at Pera Film on Sunday 16 February and Friday 21 February.