During the German occupation of Poland, Has studied in Krakow at the Szkola Handlowa (School of Commerce), and later - until it was disbanded in 1943 - at the Szkola Przemyslu Artystycznego (School of the Art Industry), which was in fact an underground embodiment of the Academy of Fine Arts. When the war ended, he went on to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. In 1946 he also completed a one-year course in film. That same year he began producing educational and documentary films at the Wytwornia Filmow Dokumentalnych (Documentary Film Studio) in Warsaw, and in the 1950s moved on to the Wytwornia Filmow Oswiatowych (Educational Film Studio) in Lodz. In 1947 he debuted with a medium length feature titled HARMONIA / HARMONY and in 1957 began making full-length feature films. In 1974 Has became a lecturer in the directing department of the Lodz Film School. From 1987-1989 he was artistic director of the "Rondo" Film Studio and a member of the Komitet Kinematografii (State Cinema Committee). In 1989-1990 he served as dean of the directing department at the State Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre in Lodz. In 1990 he became the school's provost and remained in this position for six years. He was the managing director and chief professional advisor at the school-affiliated "Indeks" Studio. In 1999 he received the Polska Nagroda Filmowa (Polish Film Award) for Lifetime Achievement, while at the 8. MIEDZYNARODOWY FESTIWAL SZTUKI AUTOROW ZDJEC FILMOWYCH "CAMERIMAGE" / 8TH CAMERIMAGE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE ART OF CINEMATOGRAPHY in Lodz in the year 200o he received an award for exceptional visual sensitivity. That same year the State Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre in Lodz bestowed an honorary doctorate on the filmmaker.
Has made himself known as an artist of great individuality, one who avoided political or commercial tones in his art. He was a creator apart, if not to say an alienated artist. He produced his most important films at the height of the famed Polish School, however, his films were stylistically different, from those of this current, and manifested a unique poetic that was all Has's own.
Due to the exceptional nature of his film language, Has is often referred to as a visionary of Polish cinema. Critics note that he created a body of film work that was surprisingly cohesive in its poetic, as if he were recounting the same tale in various ways. In practically every film, Has sought to create his own world. The adventures of his protagonists, their problems and the storylines in which they were embroiled were always of secondary importance compared to the film world he created. This was characterized by an accumulation of strange objects (critics often use the term "rupieciarnia" - "a random collection" to describe it), journeys through the labyrinth of time, a specific narrative rhythm, all of which were a manifestation of his creativity and combined to create a unique visual universe.
"If Wojciech Has had become a painter, he would surely have been a Surrealist. He would have redrawn antique objects with all their real accoutrements and juxtaposed them in unexpected ways," wrote Aleksander Jackiewicz, reminding readers that in his youth the director had also studied painting.
In remembering Has, Henryk Kluba stated that he was a director who "resolved compositions" while shooting and treated each shot as a painted canvas.
"My cinema, my film narratives are visual in nature," said Has of himself. "Their point of departure is always literature. Operating on time. Abbreviations of time. Jumps in time. Sidetracks and various layers. Space is the domain of painting; time is the domain of literature and film. Playing with time activates the imagination of film viewers (...) the fundamental topic of cinema to me is that of the journey."
These fascinations are more than evident in Has's core films like REKOPIS ZNALEZIONY W SARAGOSSIE / THE SARAGOSSA MANUSCRIPT, SANOTORIUM POD KLEPSYDRA / THE HOURGLASS SANATORIUM, and in later works like OSOBISTY PAMIETNIK GRZESZNIKA / THE MEMOIRS OF A SINNER and NIEZWYKLA PODROZ BALTAZARA KOBERA / THE TRIBULATIONS OF BALTHAZAR KOBER.
"In the dream that is a film," said the director, "one often has a singular time loop. Things of the past, issues long gone, are overlaid onto current reality. The subconscious invades reality. Dreams thus allow us to reveal, to show the future."
Has's oeuvre is most commonly associated with Surrealist painting. This is reinforced by the director's dream poetic and his use of accumulations of objects, which are also characteristic of many canvasses by the Surrealists. Film scholar Miroslaw Przylipiak less obviously describes Has's style as "Painterly Cubism," justifying this with penetrating analysis. Przylipiak writes as follows of the director's formula of alternative time in SANATORIUM POD KLEPSYDRA / THE HOURGLASS SANATORIUM:
"The singularity of Has's films lies in his juxtaposition of several time dimensions. One could call this a kind of temporal 'Cubism.' Just as Cubism in painting consists of "assembling' canvasses from various spatial aspects of reality, so 'temporal Cubism' consists of introducing several time dimensions into a single scene."
Has also created a number of intimate psychological dramas during his career (PETLA / THE NOOSE, POZEGNANIA / FAREWELLS, JAK BYC KOCHANA / HOW TO BE LOVED, SZYFRY / THE CODES). Critics noted that he seemed to specialize in films about people with unsettled, damaged mentalities who have difficulty settling into life. He was fascinated by outsiders, people evicted from the main current of life, incapable of finding their place in reality.
Two currents remain evident in Has's output: one was his cinema of psychological analysis, the other his films of visionary form in which he most often used the motif of the journey. In spite of this, the director's stylistics rendered these currents similar. In the book "Kino, wehikul magiczny" / "Cinema - A Magical Vehicle," Adam Garbicz wrote that Has's dramas were "always peculiar, always intimate, based on half-tones and on speaking through images." Andrzej Szpulak, on the other hand, writing in "Kino" monthly, offered the following:
"Each work turns out to be a journey into the depths of a once-glimpsed or once-conceived world. Whether this is eighteenth century Spain or German-occupied Poland or even the overtly fantastic thirteenth month, we always find ourselves at the fringes of reality, among protagonists who, while awaiting death, passively submit themselves to a capricious and uncertain chain of events."