The Saragossa Manuscript

Wojciech Jerzy Has

Poland, 1964


A period costume comedy, an adventure swashbuckler, a fantasy fairy tale with ghosts, hanged men, possessed princesses – this is how this exceptional film was described.

A young captain of the guards of the Spanish king, Alfonse van Worden, travels on his own through the wild Sierra Morena. One night in a gloomy inn he meets two Moorish princesses who tell him that as a descendant of the mighty Gomelez family he has been chosen for great deeds. First, however, he has to prove his courage, righteousness and honour. Alfonse becomes a centre of extraordinary events, he is haunted by the possessed,
hanged men, and he is persecuted by the Inquisition. Finally, he gets to a castle of a mysterious Cabalist and spends many days listening to his weird, ambiguous stories about even weirder events in this world.



Wojciech Jerzy Has

A film director, screenwriter, direction teacher. One of the greatest visionaries of the Polish Cinema. He required the audience to take active part in the interpretation of his film images. Nearly all visually sophisticated films made by Has were adaptations of literature.

In 1945, he became the student of the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, where he studied in the workshop of Professor Eibisch until 1947. At the same time, he was a student of the Cracow Film Institute, which he finished in 1946 and started to work in the Documentary Film Studio. In 1951-1956, he worked in the Educational Film Studio in Łódź, producing documentary, educational and instructional films. From 1955, he worked in the “Syrena” Film Studio, and then in “Iluzjon” and “Kamera” (from 1958). In 1981-87, he was the artistic director of “Rondo”. In 1987-89, he was a member of the Cinematography Committee. He was a lecturer and professor at the Lodz Film School, in 1990-96 he was the vice-chancellor of the school. He was also the director and artistic supervisor of the “Indeks” Film Studio operating at the Lodz Film School.


  • 1957: The Noose
  • 1958: Farewells
  • 1959: Roomers
  • 1960: Goodbye to the Past
  • 1961: Gold Dreams
  • 1962: How to Be Loved
  • 1964: The Saragossa Manuscript
  • 1966: The Codes
  • 1968: The Doll
  • 1973: The Hourglass Sanatorium
  • 1982: An Uneventful Story
  • 1984: Write and Fight
  • 1985: Memoirs of a Sinner
  • 1988: The Tribulations of Balthazar Kober


Director: Wojciech Jerzy Has

Script: Tadeusz Kwiatkowski – based on a novel by Jan Potocki under the same title

Art Direction: Mieczyslaw Jahoda

Music: Krystyna Komosinska

Colour: Black and White

Duration: 177’

Zbigniew Cybulski
Iga Cembrzyńska
Joanna Jędryka
Elżbieta Czyżewska
Gustaw Holoubek
Bogumił Kobiela
Leon Niemczyk
Beata Tyszkiewicz
Barbara Krafftówna
Ludwik Benoit as Pacheco’s father
Franciszek Pieczka

• 1965 Edinburgh (IFF) – Honorary Mention
• 1965 San Sebastian (IFF) – Golden Feather
(award of the Foreign Journalists Club)
• 1965 San Sebastian (IFF) – CIDALC Prize
• 1969 Sitges (International Fantastic Film Festival)
– special medal
• 1971 Spanish Critics’ Award


Iwona Grodź, Zaszyfrowane w obrazie. O filmach Wojciecha Jerzego Hasa, wyd. słowo/obraz terytoria, Gdańsk 2008

Zygmunt Kałużyński, “Dziwy w filmie polskim!”, Polityka 1965 Issue 6

Iwona Kolasińska, “Na początku była Księga…”, Kwartalnik Filmowy 1999, Issue 26-27

Maria Malatyńska, “Twórca uwiedziony literaturą? O filmach Wojciecha J. Hasa” Kino 1978, Issue 1

Marcin Maron,  Dramat czasu i wyobraźni. Filmy Wojciecha J. Hasa, wyd. Universitas, Kraków 2010

Małgorzata Jakubowska, Kryształy czasu. Kino Wojciecha Jerzego Hasa, wyd. UŁ i PWSFTvi T, Łódź 2013

Tadeusz Sobolewski, Wojciech Jerzy Has. Arcydzieła polskiego kina, Wyd. Telewizji Kino Polska

Wojciech J. Has, “Dlaczego właśnie Saragossa?” Ekran 1964, Issue 51

Wojciech Żukrowski, “Zabawa dla mądrych”, Kultura, 1965, Issue 8


Wojciech Jerzy Has answers the question why he undertook to adapt The Saragossa Manuscript:
“In his book, Potocki offers a joke with a clearly philosophical subtext. Fantasy emanates from the novel but it also carries a deeper thought. It portrays an ironic world, revealing the mechanism of interpersonal relations. So there is play, light and graceful, but not only play. A comedy but rather bitter.”
Wojciech J. Has
“Dlaczego właśnie Saragossa?” Ekran 1964, Issue 51

Barbara Sass-Zdort tells about the circumstances of giving Zbyszek Cybulski the role of Alfonse Van Worden:
“The main male role was supposed to be played by an eminent French actor. Before the shooting started, Wojciech Has didn’t hold any rehearsals with actors. When the shooting started, it turned out that this young man was unable to perform even the simplest acting tasks. Then, by sheer accident, Zbyszek Cybulski appeared on set. And Has decided he would play the leading role.”
Franciszek Pieczka, who played the role of the devil-possessed Pacheco, recalled his participation in the film as a great honour: “I was lucky to take part in this film. I remember Wojtek Has as a director actors could fully trust. He was very creative and always had everything planned.”
Barbara Kraftówna also shared her memories connected with the shooting of the film with the audience:
“The atmosphere on the set was wonderful and creative. In each scene, in the case of each physical or situational composition, I had the sense of taking part in painting, which is a rare experience in everyday hard work in front of the camera, in the light.”




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