Masters of Cinema : Roman Polanski

                             On the morning of 14 March 1943, the Krakow ghetto was finally liquidated. It was exactly a month since Bula Polanski (Roman's Mother) had disappeared. His father Ryszard was able to smuggle Romek [Roman] out of the area. From there the 9-year-old took to his heels, went into permanent hiding in the spring of 1943. It was hard to say which was worse, the war situation or Roman's own predicament. This dramatic account weaves together the rich and complex life of the celebrated and controversial film director, Roman Polanski

                             He is a man of immense dichotomy ; exquisitely sensitive and dazzlingly brilliant yet capable of staggering insensitivity and cruelty. Polanski is one of the important directors of modern cinema, whose career has spanned over five decades.
  • Polanski was born in Paris on 18 August 1933. Two years before the outbreak of the Second World War, the family returned to Poland. His mother died in the Auschwitz concentration camp; Local people usually ignored the cinemas where German films were shown, but Polanski seemed little concerned by the propaganda and often went to the movies. 
  • As the war progressed Poland became increasingly war torn and he lived life as a tramp, hiding in barns and forests, eating whatever he could steal or find. Roman and his father survived the war and were reunited in 1945. 
  • His father sent him to technical school, but young Roman seemed to have already chosen another career. Adopting the surname Polanski, he acted in Polish films, most notably as one of the youths organising resistance to the Nazis in Andrzej Wajda's A Generation
  • Directed numerous short films, including Two Men and a Wardrobe (Poland, 1958), were followed by a taut, minimalist thriller, Knife in the Water (Poland, 1962), which gained an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film, but was denounced by the Communist regime for its negative portrayal of Polish life.
  • Polanski departed for France, where he teamed up with the writer Gérard Brach, to work in the movie Cul-de-Sac. Brach's script for Cul-de-Sac was initially considered too uncommercial, and Repulsion was quickly written as an alternative. A tense psychodrama about a woman both attracted and repulsed by sexuality, Repulsion achieved the perfect art/exploitation balance.
  • The film's success encouraged them to go ahead with Cul-de-Sac, a Pinteresque drama that offered few of the thrills that had attracted audiences to Repulsion. Polanski then moved to Hollywood, where he was able to retain much tighter control over Rosemary's Baby (US, 1968), an adaptation of Ira Levin's novel about demonic possession. The film was a huge success and would have secured Polanski's career as a coveted Hollywood director. 
  • But his new-found success descended quickly into  tragedy in 1969, when several of his friends and Sharon Tate, eight months pregnant, was brutally murdered by Serial-killer Charles Manson and his acolytes. Polanski came back to Britain to make Macbeth (1971), a violent, bloody version of Shakespeare's play that many critics read as reflecting Polanski's personal life. wife
  • Polanski returned to Hollywood to direct Chinatown (US, 1974), a stylish film noir that repeated the critical and box-office success of Rosemary's Baby. But Polanski became a victim of his own excesses when he fled the united states to avoid serving prison time following a conviction for statutory rape. As a fugitive, Polanski continued making films, albeit with less frequency and small budgets.
  • But he found himself on top again , when he tapped his own experiences for the Oscar winning holocaust-drama, "The Pianist" (2002). The Pianist is an unflinchingly brave study of a man's will to survive among the horrors of Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Though there have been times when Polanski's career seemed in terminal decline, he has proved himself across the decades as the consummate survivor and a major international director.
  • Trade Mark : Likes to arrange shots from the protagonist's perspective and slowly pan around the room to points of interest as the character notices them. By the end of his films, the protagonist often meets an uncertain, melancholic future. Often key scenes or plot are featured near or associated with water.
  • In September 2009,  he was arrested in Switzerland while on his way to pick up a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich film festival. 
  • After Polanski fled from the American justice, the judge on his case swore to have him behind the bars. Though the judge died in 1989, the director still can't enter the US; otherwise, he would be arrested.
  • Was voted the 26th Greatest Director of all time by Entertainment Weekly. President of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991. 
Roman Polanski Quotes :

"You have to show violence the way it is. If you don't show it realistically, then that's immoral and harmful. If you don't upset people, then that's obscenity."

"Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theater."

"Every failure made me more confident. Because I wanted even more to achieve as revenge. To show that I could."

"Hollywood is like that: a spoiled brat that screams for possession of a toy and then tosses it out of the baby buggy."

"I am not a fortune teller. I would like to be judged for my work, and not for my life. If there is any possibility of changing your destiny, it may be only in your creative life, certainly not in your life, period."

                                      Polanski is often described with contradictory superlatives. A singularly gifted filmmaker who has sometimes betrayed that talent completely; a man blessed with the reciprocal love and devotion of three of the most beautiful women and yet easily capable of sexist and boorish behavior. But, as an artist, who exerted tremendous control - often co-writing screenplays and sometimes acting - Polanski instilled his films with a uniquely personal worldwide view.  His recurring themes of violence and victimization , isolation and alienation, permeated a body of work that long remains unmatched by many a director before and since. 

                                   Roman Polanski is a sinner, as well as a genius. He is a paradox.


Deepak Karthik said...

The Pianist !
whata film ???
Thanks for the post and info

Arun Kumar said...

Thanks for your comment, Deepak.

...αηαη∂.... said...

Polanski... truly international film maker...

aativas said...

Very informative.

Manreet Sodhi Someshwar said...

Brilliant! Loved it, I know where to go for my cinematic dose.


Arun Kumar said...

@aativas, Thank You

@Manreet, Thanks for your comment.

Unknown said...

ive heard a lot about THE PIANIST but never got a chance to see the movie...

after this post, Polanski's work will remain a top priority in my lookout for good quality cinema...

very informative post Arun..


Arun Kumar said...

Thanks for your comment Rahul, and Polanski mostly delivers a good quality movie.

Vetirmagal said...

Arun, Please take a break! You make me feel guilty. You make me want to watch all those nice movies, and I do not have the time.
I have to forgo my sleep time only!!!
And I have to postpone even reading your full article, As soon as I saw the title, I promoted. You made me cheat.:-)

Signing off, to cook dinner!!!