There is little to say: Roman Polanski’s biography is probably the most tormented, unfortunate and tragic of all famous directors of the history of cinema. But Roman remained impervious to all these sad tides thanks to art and cinema. A passion that began as a child and never subsided again. Polanski seems to have understood the saving lesson of art, and that what happens around it are only events that take place on the periphery of being. One more villain who looks out the window of the world one morning.
Throughout his career Roman Polanski has garnered 5 Oscar nominations, winning the 2003 Oscar for Best Director for The Pianist. He also received two Golden Globes, two BAFTAs, a Palme d’Or at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival in France, as well as several Césars.
His Polish-Jewish parents moved from his birthplace in Paris to Krakow in 1937. Two years later, the intrusion of Poland by Nazi Germany began World War II: the family found themselves captured in the Krakow ghetto. After his mother and father were caught in Nazi roundups, Polanski spent his growing years in foster families under a false identity and endured the Holocaust.
Polanski’s first feature, Knife in the Water ( 1962), was shot in Poland and was chosen for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in the United States. In the UK he directed 3 films, starting with Repulsion (1965). In 1968 he moved to the United States and directed the famous horror movie Rosemary’s Baby (1968).
Polanski’s life changed in 1969 when his pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, and four friends were murdered by members of the Manson family. In 1977 Polanski was arrested and charged with drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl. As a result, Polanski is a fugitive from the US criminal justice system.
The Childhood of Roman Polanski
Polanski was born in Paris, son of Bula “Bella” and Mojżesz Liebling, painter and sculptor manufacturer, who after WWII was known as Ryszard Polański. Polanski’s father was Jewish and originally from Poland; Polanski’s mother, born in Russia, had been raised with Catholic teachings and was of half Jewish ancestry. Polanski later claimed to be an atheist.
The Polański family returned to the Polish city of Krakow in early 1937 and resided there when World War II began with the invasion of Poland. Krakow was quickly overrun by German forces, just as Nuremberg’s racist and anti-Semitic laws made the Polańskis targets of mistreatment, forcing them into the Krakow ghetto, along with thousands of the city’s Jews.
Around the age of 6, he only attended elementary school for a couple of weeks, until all the Jewish children were suddenly expelled. All Jewish boys over the age of twelve were required to wear white bracelets with a blue Star of David imprinted for recognition. After being expelled, he would not be allowed to enter another class for the next 6 years.
Polanski observed both the ghettoization of Krakow’s Jews and the subsequent deportation of all Jews from the ghetto to the German extermination camp. He saw how his father was killed. He remembers from the age of six, among his first experiences of the Nazi horrors:
At first I didn’t understand what was going on. I have simply seen individuals scatter in all directions. I understood why the street had emptied so quickly. Some women were gathered along it by German soldiers. Instead of running away like the others, I felt compelled to see.
An elderly woman at the bottom of the column could not keep up. A German police officer continued to push her back in line, but she fell on all fours, … Suddenly a gun appeared in the policeman’s hand. There was a loud bang, and blood was also gushing from her back. I ran straight into the nearest structure, hidden in a recess under some wooden stairs, and didn’t go out for hours. I had a weird behavior: I was holding my hands so tightly that my palms were permanently callused. I also got up one morning to find that I had wet my bed.
His father was transferred, along with hundreds of various other Jews, to Mauthausen, a group of 49 German POWs in Austria. Her mother was taken to Auschwitz and she too was killed not long after. The forced exodus occurred immediately after the German liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto, the real background of Polanski’s The Pianist (2002).
Polanski, who was then hiding from the Germans, saw his father walking away with a long line of individuals. Polanski tried to get close to his father to ask him what was going on. His father saw him, but worried that his son might be found by German soldiers, he murmured in Polish: “Run away!”
Polanski fled the Krakow ghetto in 1943 and survived with the help of some Polish Catholics, including a woman who promised Polanski’s father that she would host the boy. Polanski went to church, learned to recite Catholic prayers by heart, and behaved like a Roman Catholic, although he had never been baptized. The punishment for helping a Jew in German-occupied Poland was death.
As he strolled through the countryside trying to resist in a Poland occupied by German soldiers, he saw many horrors, such as being “forced into a cruel and vicious video game in which German soldiers shot him as if at a target”. Polanski’s continuing childhood anxieties and terror of physical violence added to the “tangible milieus he evokes in the film.
Of those deaths, 3 million were Polish Jews, representing 90% of the country’s Jewish population. According to Sandford, Polanski would have used the memory of her mother, her dress and makeup style, as a physical model for the character of Faye Dunaway in her film Chinatown (1974).
After the War
Her father remarried on 21 December 1946 to Wanda Zajączkowska (who Polanski had never loved) and died of cancer in 1984. Time mended family contacts; Polanski visited them in Krakow and relatives visited him in Hollywood and Paris.
They were really simple Catholic farmers. This Polish village was like the English village.a switch!
flippedomunist to really understand how bad it can be. After that you will appreciate industrialism. “He also kept in mind the opportunities at the end of the battle and its reintroduction into traditional society when he was 12, making friends with other kids, such as Roma Ligocka, Ryszard Horowitz and his family.
Polanski’s attraction to cinema started very early when he was about 4 or 5. He recalls this period in an interview:
Since childhood, I have always loved cinema and was thrilled when my parents took me there before the war. And there was one corner in particular where you could see the screen through the barbed wire. I remember watching in fascination, even though they only showed the German army and German tanks, with occasional anti-Jewish slogans.
After the war, he watched movies, at school or at a local cinema, using the allowance he had. Polanski writes: “Most of this pocket money went into the movies, but the places for the movies were cheap. As time went on, movies became more of an escape into entertainment, as he explains:
Movies were becoming an absolute obsession for me. I was fascinated by everything related to cinema, not just the films themselves, but the atmosphere around them. I enjoyed the bright rectangle of the screen, the sight of the light beam cutting through the darkness, the projection booth, the synchronization of noise and images, even the smell of the folding seats. More than anything, however, I was fascinated by the technical elements of the process.
He was mostly influenced by Sir Odd Man Out (1947) – “I still consider it one of the best films I’ve ever seen and a film that made me want to pursue this profession more than anything else. To some extent I should say that I somehow reinforce the concepts of that film in what I do. “
Polanski attended the National Film School in Łódź. Polanski’s directorial debut was in 1955 with a short film, Rower. Rower is a semi-autobiographical feature, deemed lost, starring Polanski.
Polanski left the then Communist Poland and moved to France, where he had already made two important short films in 1961: The Fat and the Thin and Mammals. While in France, Polanski contributed a segment (“La rivière de diamants”) to the French-produced film, Les plus belles escroqueries du monde (The Beautiful Swindlers) in 1964. Polanski discovered that in the early 1960s , The French film industry was generally reluctant and xenophobic to support an emerging director of foreign origin.
Polanski met Sharon Tate during the making of the film; the actress played the role of the daughter of the local landlord. They married in London on January 20, 1968. Immediately after their marriage, Polanski, with Tate at his side in a documentary, described the needs of the young film audience who, according to him, constantly wanted to see something new and varied.
The Life of Roman Polanski
In 1959 Polanski married actress Barbara Kwiatkowska-Lass. The actress starred in her short film When Angels Fall. Polanski met actress Sharon Tate while filming The Fearless Vampire Killers, and during production, the two began dating. On January 20, 1968, Polanski and Tate also got married in London.
In February 1969 Polanski and Tate rented a house in Los Angeles. In August, while Polanski was in Europe working on a film, Tate stayed at home, eight and a half months pregnant. In fact, Polanski stated that his absence on the night of the murders is the greatest regret of his life.
He wrote in his memoirs: “Sharon’s death is the only point of reference in my life”, as well as commenting that her murder transformed her character from an “unlimited and serene sea of positive hypotheses and perspectives” to an “ingrained pessimism … eternal frustration with life”. Polanski was overwhelmed by a negative perception of journalism, which he felt interested in sensationalizing the news to attract readers. He was amazed at the lack of compassion in the various news items.
Amid the sensationalism generated by the media were rumors that Tate and his visitors were taking drugs, despite the coroner announcing that no traces of drugs were found after Tate’s autopsy. For years later, Sandford notes, “reporters openly speculated about the Polanskis’ home lives” and their personalities in order to create more media gossip about the private lives of Hollywood celebrities.
In 1989, Polanski married actress Emmanuelle Seigner. They have two children, daughter Morgane and son Elvis. Polanski and his children speak Polish at home. In May 2018, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to remove Polanski from its membership. The same year, his wife Emmanuelle Seigner refused the invitation to enter the Academy.
The Allegations Against Roman Polanski
In 1977 Polanski was arrested and accused of drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl. In 1978, after learning that the judge intended to reject his plea bargain and impose a prison sentence instead of probation, he fled to Paris. Several other women later accused Polanski of raping them when they were teenagers.
On March 11, 1977, three years after making Chinatown, Polanski was arrested at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel for the sexual assault of 13-year-old Samantha Gailey. Polanski was indicted on six counts, including rape. Gailey’s lawyer arranged a plea deal in which five of the six charges would be dismissed and Polanski agreed.
After being released from prison after 42 days, Polanski accepted the plea bargain along with probation. “I’ll see this man never gets out of jail,” he told Polanski’s friend, screenwriter Howard E. Koch. Gailey’s attorney. He would have sentenced Polanski to fifty years. What the judge did was scandalous. They had agreed on a plea deal and the judge had approved it.
Polanski was told by his lawyer that “the judge could no longer be trusted” and that the judge’s statements were “worthless”. Polanski has decided not to appear at his sentence. As he fled the United States before his final sentence, the charges are still pending.
In 1988, Gailey sued Polanski. In August 1996, Polanski still owed her $ 604,416; court documents confirm that the deal was completed by 1997 through a confidential financial arrangement.
On September 26, 2009, Polanski was imprisoned while in Switzerland at the request of the US authorities. The event brought the instance back into focus and also sparked conflict, particularly in the United States and Europe. Polanski has been defended by a number of prominent personalities, including Hollywood celebrities and also European musicians and politicians, who have called for his release. Popular American opinion would have been against him, and polls in France and Poland revealed that solid majorities were in favor of his extradition to the United States.
Polanski was jailed near Zurich for two months, then placed under house arrest at his home in Gstaad pending the results of his extradition appeals. On 12 July 2010, the Swiss rejected the US request, declared Polanski a “free man” and released him from custody. An Interpol red notice was issued in 1978 after he fled the United States, restricting his movements in France, Switzerland and Poland.
During a televised interview on March 10, 2011, Geimer condemned the media, reporters, the court and even the judge for causing “far more harm to me and my family than anything Roman Polanski has ever done”, and she also claimed that the judge was using her and Polanski for media exposure.
On 30 October 2015, Polish judge Dariusz Mazur rejected the US request to extradite Polanski (with dual Franco-Polish citizenship) for a full trial, arguing that it would be “obviously illegal”. The Krakow prosecutor’s office refused to challenge the court’s ruling, agreeing that Polanski had served his punishment and did not need to face a US court again.
On May 3, 2018, Polanski was eliminated from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with the decision referencing the case. Polanski criticized Harvey Weinstein for the newfound focus on his sexual assault situation in the 2000s and claimed that Weinstein tried to label him a “child rapist” to prevent him from winning an Oscar in 2003.
In his book, Geimer states: “As wrong as he did what he did, I know without a doubt that he didn’t consider me a victim of his. Not everyone will recognize him, yet I never thought he wanted to hurt me; he wanted me to appreciate him. He was stubborn as well as excited. It seems obvious to me that he was not trying to take pleasure in my pain. “
In the interview, Geimer clarifies some of the ideas that have arisen in the media:” … because others insist that I have to put up with it, and that if I don’t introduce the right amount of pain and shame, must there be something wrong with me? I actually don’t have to be hurt to confirm what Roman did.
Towards the end of the interview she concludes:
Forgiveness helps victim. It frees you from hatred and regret. As I have already pointed out, people explode when they find that they cannot use me to fulfill their purpose. Roman returned to the United States, served his sentence, as well as being treated unfairly by a corrupt court. 40 years have passed. Enough.
In 2008, Marina Zenovich’s docudrama film, Roman Polanski: Wanted as well as Desired, was released in Europe and the United States where it won various awards. It includes meetings with the people involved in the case, including the victim, Geimer, as well as the prosecutor, Roger Gunson.
In September 2011, the documentary film Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir had its premiere in Zurich, Switzerland. In this celebration, he collected the Lifetime Achievement Award he would have actually received 2 years earlier.
In 2004, Polanski took legal action against the Vanity Fair publication in London for defamation. A 2002 post in the magazine stated that Polanski had promised he would “make you another Sharon Tate” in an attempt to seduce a Scandinavian girl while she was on a trip to Tate’s funeral.
Herzliya Magistrates’ Court rejected Polanski’s request to be exempted from appearing in court after filing the libel suit. While Polanski offered numerous reasons for his inability to show up, the presiding judge, Gilad Hess, rejected them one by one and ordered Polanski to pay Uziel. In November 2018, it was stated that Polanski had decided to drop the lawsuit.
In late December 2019, in Polanski’s meetings with Paris Match and Gazeta Wyborcza, the director accused Matan Uziel of wanting to destroy his public image and playing a major role in designing a global campaign to tarnish his name and bring down his profession in disgrace.
In 2010, British star Charlotte Lewis claimed that Polanski was actually “interested” in her while auditioning for a film in Paris in 1983, when she was 16 and he was 50. In 1999, Lewis had actually provided a very varied account of events in a meeting with the UK News of the World, which was brought to light by Libération, a French newspaper. In that meeting, Lewis claimed he had a six-month date with Polanski when he was 17: “I knew Roman had actually done something bad in the US, yet I intended to be his girlfriend,” Lewis said, according to Liberation. “Maybe I wanted him more than he wanted me.”
Lewis never mentioned any sexual assaults and claimed their partnership ended when Polanski introduced it to Warren Beatty. She was cast in the 1986 film Pirates of Polanski, appeared at the Cannes Film Festival on his arm years after the alleged event, as well as in a meeting the year of the film’s launch, Lewis specified: “I wish I had had a ‘ romantic experience with Polanski, and also physical. You can’t help but fall in love with him. But he really didn’t want me. “
Further Allegations Against Polanski
In October 2017, German actress Renate Langer informed Swiss authorities that Polanski raped her in Gstaad when she was 15, in 1972. The same month, Californian artist Marianne Barnard accused Polanski of having sexually assaulted her in 1975, when she was 10 years old. In November 2019, French actress Valentine Monnier alleged that Polanski raped her in a chalet in Gstaad in 1975.
In February 2020, Polanski won the Best Director award at the 2020 Cesar Awards in France. Neither Polanski nor the actors, nor the team of The Officer and the Spy (J’accuse) attended the awards ceremony organized at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. Facing allegations of sexual assault against him, he said, “The fantasies of sick minds are now being treated as proven truths.” This is Cesar’s fifth win for best director in Polanski, the record for a director; he previously won for Tess, The Pianist, The Ghost Writer and Venus in Fur.
Before the awards ceremony, Polanski released a statement, saying, “For several days, people have been asking me this question: Will I attend the Cesar ceremony or not? Referring to the recent media scandal that led to the mass resignation of the Cesar. Cesar’s council, Polanski added: “The press and social media presented our 12 nominations as if they were gifts offered to us by the academy’s board of directors, as an authoritarian gesture that had forced their resignation.
Despite Polanski’s absence from the awards ceremony, his election and victory sparked protests over the rape allegations he still faces. Activists displayed slogans such as “Shame on an industry that protects rapists”. The police met with activists, even shooting tear gas at them. The accusations have also been made by stars, such as Adèle Haenel, Noémie Merlant, as well as Celine Sciamma who has abandoned the honors. Many other stars and feminists have spoken out against Polanski online, such as NousToutes, a French feminist, who called the victory “scandalous”, as well as Jessica Chastain tweeted “I Fucking Stan” in connection with the protests.
At the same time, some stars have come to her defense, such as actress Fanny Ardant, who said: “When I like someone, I love them passionately. And I like Roman Polanski very much … a lot … So I am very happy for him. After that, I understand that not all people agree on how long the real-time flexibility is! ” as well as star Brigitte Bardot who said: “Fortunately Polanski exists and is saving cinema from its mediocrity! I value him for his talent and for his personal life! I’m sorry I never shot with him!”.
Star Lambert Wilson called the Polanski media war “horrible public lynching”, as did Isabelle Huppert, who specified that “lynching is a kind of pornography”. Samantha Geimer, criticized the militants as “very opportunistic”, as well as stating that “If you wish to transform the world today, do so … by demanding that people be held accountable today, not choosing someone who is famous and believing that if you demonize them for things that happened decades ago, somehow it has some kind of value in changing and protecting society. “
In an interview Polanski confessed: “I see the exact same willingness to overlook the facts and condemn myself for things that I haven’t actually done. Most of the people who bother me don’t know me and don’t know anything about the situation.”
In October 2020, Polanski returned to Poland and paid tribute to a Polish couple who helped him hide and escape the Nazis. Stefania and Jan Buchala have been defined by Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust memorial, as “Righteous among the nations”. Polanski remembered Stefania Buchala as an “exceptionally noble” and daring person.
Roman Polanski’s Films
Knife in the Water (1962)
“Knife in the Water” is a film directed by Roman Polanski in 1962. This is his debut feature film and a classic of Polish cinema. The film is a psychological drama that revolves around a boat trip involving a man, his wife, and a stranger. Tension escalates as conflicts among the characters surface, creating a claustrophobic situation on the boat.
Plot: The protagonist, known as the Narrator, decides to spend a weekend on a boat with his wife, Andrzej, and a hitchhiker, known only as the Young Man. The dynamics among the three characters become increasingly tense as rivalries and jealousies emerge. The boat becomes the setting for a psychological conflict, with suspenseful undertones permeating the entire story.
Review: “Knife in the Water” is known for its intense storytelling and how Polanski masterfully exploits the boat setting to create tension. The film is a profound reflection on human dynamics and interpersonal relationships. The black-and-white cinematography contributes to the dark and claustrophobic atmosphere. A masterpiece by the Polish auteur, this film represents the beginning of an extraordinary cinematic career.
Polanski’s first feature film was also one of the first significant Polish films after the World War II not to have a war theme.
Polanski made three feature films in England, based on original scripts written by himself and by Gérard Brach, his regular partner. Repulsion (1965) is a psychological horror film centered on a young Belgian woman named Carol (Catherine Deneuve).
The film’s themes, circumstances, and results clearly reflect the impact of the first surrealist cinema together with horror film 1950s Un chien Andalou by Luis Buñuel, The blood of a poet by Jean Cocteau, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Diabolique and also Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock.
Plot: The film follows the story of Carol, a young woman portrayed by Catherine Deneuve, who lives in London with her older sister Helen. Carol suffers from mental disorders and exhibits signs of agoraphobia and sexual repulsion. When Helen goes on a romantic vacation, Carol is left alone in the apartment, and her mind begins to deteriorate. She starts experiencing terrifying hallucinations and nightmares, leading to a spiral of madness and terror.
Review: “Repulsion” is a film that unsettlingly delves into the disturbed psyche of its main character. Catherine Deneuve delivers an extraordinary performance as Carol, capturing her descent into madness perfectly. The film is known for its disturbing imagery and effective use of sound to create an atmosphere of terror. It’s an excellent example of the psychological horror genre and stands as one of Polanski’s most significant works.
Cul De Sac (1966)
Cul De Sac (1966) is a grim nihilistic tragicomedy filmed in the Northumberland area. The tone of the film owes much to Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, along with the facets of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party.
Plot: The plot revolves around a man named George and his wife Teresa, portrayed by Donald Pleasence and Françoise Dorléac, who live in a castle on an inaccessible island in England. Their quiet life is disrupted when a group of criminals, on the run from a failed robbery, arrives on the island and takes George and Teresa hostage. The situation becomes increasingly surreal and comedic as the criminals attempt to manage their captivity, and George tries to escape his bizarre predicament.
Review: “Cul De Sac” is an eccentric and enigmatic film that blends elements of black comedy with dramatic situations. Donald Pleasence’s performance as George is notable, bringing a touch of humor to the character. The film is characterized by a strange atmosphere and surreal dialogues. It’s a work that challenges expectations and offers a unique perspective on Polanski’s cinema.
The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)
The Fearless Vampire Killers was Polanski’s first feature film to be photographed in color using Panavision lenses and included a striking visual style with fairytale snowy landscapes, similar to the work of Soviet fantasy directors.
Plot: The story follows Professor Abronsius and his bumbling assistant Alfred as they venture into Transylvania to study vampires. They arrive at a remote inn where they encounter strange and supernatural occurrences. When the innkeeper’s daughter, Sarah, is kidnapped by the local vampire count, the professor and Alfred embark on a mission to rescue her. The film combines elements of horror, comedy, and romance as they confront the undead.
Review: “The Fearless Vampire Killers” is notable for its blend of horror and humor, a departure from Polanski’s usual style. It’s a quirky and entertaining take on the vampire genre with a unique sense of humor. The film’s visuals and atmosphere capture the essence of classic vampire lore while adding a comedic twist. It’s a cult classic appreciated for its distinct charm and playful approach to the genre.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Paramount boss Robert Evans took Polanski to America ostensibly to direct the movie Downhill Racer, however he told Polanski he really wanted him to read Ira Levin’s horror novel Rosemary’s Baby to see if a movie could be made from it. Polanski revised it nonstop overnight and chose to write it together with him. He wrote the script for the 272-page film in just over 3 weeks.
Plot: The film follows the story of Rosemary Woodhouse, portrayed by Mia Farrow, and her husband Guy, played by John Cassavetes, a young couple who move into a New York City apartment building with a sinister history. Rosemary becomes pregnant but begins to suspect that there are dark and malevolent forces around her and her unborn child. The plot unfolds as Rosemary tries to uncover the truth behind what is happening.
Review: “Rosemary’s Baby” is known for its escalating suspense and tension. Mia Farrow delivers an outstanding performance as Rosemary, capturing her character’s growing paranoia and desperation. The film is also known for its effective use of music and cinematography to create an eerie atmosphere. It is considered a classic of psychological horror and has left an indelible mark on the genre.
The film, Rosemary’s Baby (1968), was a box office success and also became her first Hollywood production, thus developing her success as important commercial director. Polanski’s screenplay adaptation earned him a second Oscar election.
Hugh Hefner and Playboy Productions financed the 1971 film, which was released in New York and screened at the Playboy Theater. Hefner was credited as an executive producer and the film was listed as “Playboy Production”.
Plot: The plot follows the story of Macbeth, portrayed by Jon Finch, a Scottish nobleman who, after an encounter with three witches, is driven towards ambition and a thirst for power. Encouraged by his ambitious wife, Lady Macbeth, played by Francesca Annis, Macbeth conspires to murder King Duncan and seize the throne of Scotland. This act sets off a series of tragic events that lead to his downfall.
Review: Polanski’s “Macbeth” is known for its raw and violent portrayal of the story. The director captures the brutality and ruthlessness of Shakespeare’s tragedy boldly. Jon Finch delivers an intense performance as Macbeth, while Francesca Annis is impressive in the role of Lady Macbeth. The film is also notable for its graphic violence sequences and its dark and oppressive atmosphere. It’s a bold and memorable adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces.
In his autobiography, Polanski wrote that he wanted to be true to the violent nature of the work and that he was aware that his first project after Tate’s murder would be subject to scrutiny and probable criticism regardless of subject matter; if he had made a play he would have been perceived as numb.
Written by Polanski and former contributor Gérard Brach, What? (1973) is a mordant comedy loosely based on Alice in Wonderland and also Henry James. The film is a story of the sexual humiliations that happen to a young American hippie woman who hitchhikes across Europe.
Plot: The story revolves around a young American woman named Nancy, portrayed by Sydne Rome, who is traveling through Italy. She encounters various eccentric characters and finds herself in a series of bizarre and surreal situations. The film is marked by its unconventional narrative and humorous exploration of cultural misunderstandings and absurdity.
Review: “What?” is known for its offbeat and unconventional style, typical of Polanski’s approach to storytelling. The film combines humor, satire, and surrealism to create a unique cinematic experience. Sydne Rome delivers a quirky and engaging performance as Nancy. The movie is often appreciated for its satirical take on cultural clashes and the confusion of modern life. It’s a departure from Polanski’s earlier works but showcases his versatility as a filmmaker.
Polanski was an outstanding director. There was no doubt that in directing he had an extraordinary ability. Polanski returned to Hollywood in 1973 to direct Chinatown (1974) for Paramount Pictures. The film is widely regarded as one of America’s finest films about criminal activity.
Plot: The film is set in 1930s Los Angeles and follows the character of J.J. “Jake” Gittes, portrayed by Jack Nicholson, a private investigator specializing in marital infidelity cases. He is hired by a woman named Evelyn Mulwray, played by Faye Dunaway, to investigate her husband’s alleged infidelity, who is the head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. However, the plot quickly complicates when Evelyn’s husband is found dead, and Jake becomes entangled in a web of corruption, deceit, and intrigue related to Los Angeles’ water supply.
Review: “Chinatown” is praised for its smart screenplay, masterful direction, and outstanding performances by the cast, particularly Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. The film perfectly captures the decadent and corrupt atmosphere of 1930s Los Angeles and delivers a intricate and surprising investigation. Jerry Goldsmith’s music contributes to creating a dark and immersive atmosphere. It is considered one of the greatest neo-noir films ever made and has left an indelible mark in the history of cinema.
He was chosen for 11 Academy Awards, including those for stars Jack Nicholson and also Faye Dunaway. Robert Towne won Best Original Screenplay. It likewise had actor-director John Huston in a supporting role. In 1991, the film was selected by the Library of Congress for retention in the National Film Registry of the United States as “culturally, traditionally, or aesthetically substantial” and is regularly described as being among the best films in world cinema.
The Tenant (1976)
Polanski is back in Paris for his next film, The Tenant (1976), based on a 1964 novel by Roland Topor, a French writer of Polish-Jewish descent . In addition to directing the film, Polanski also played the lead role, a shy Polish immigrant living in Paris.
Plot: The film tells the story of Trelkovsky, portrayed by Roman Polanski himself, a man who rents an apartment on the third floor of a Parisian building. He soon discovers that the former tenant has committed suicide by jumping out of the window. Trelkovsky begins to suspect that the other tenants in the building are conspiring against him, and his paranoia grows as the story unfolds. The film explores themes of alienation, identity, and madness.
Review: “The Tenant” is known for its claustrophobic style and Polanski’s ability to create a constant sense of tension and paranoia. His performance in the lead role is convincing, and the film offers a haunting reflection on perception of reality and isolation. It’s another example of Polanski’s talent in creating intense psychological films.
He dedicated his next film, Tess (1979), to the memory of his late wife, Sharon Tate. It was Tate who suggested he read Tess of the d’Urbervilles, which he thought would be a good movie; later he expected her to act in it. Almost a decade after Tate’s death, he met Nastassja Kinski, a model and aspiring young actress who had previously starred in numerous European films.
Because the role required a local dialect, Polanski sent her to London for five months to study and to spend time in the Dorset countryside to get a taste of the region. In the film, Kinski starred opposite Peter Firth and Leigh Lawson. It took Polanski a long time, 2 years, to prepare that film. … He was strict with himself, but in a good way.
Plot: The story follows Tess Durbeyfield, portrayed by Nastassja Kinski, a young woman of humble origins who discovers she is related to a noble family, the d’Urbervilles. Tess is sent to work for them, and during her time with the family, she is seduced by Alec d’Urberville, played by Leigh Lawson. This event will forever change Tess’s life, and the plot explores the consequences of this tragic relationship as Tess seeks to find happiness.
Review: “Tess” is known for its magnificent cinematography and the sensitivity with which Polanski approached Hardy’s material. Nastassja Kinski delivers a poignant performance as Tess, and the film touchingly captures her tragic fate. Philippe Sarde’s music contributes to creating an emotionally charged atmosphere. The film is a visually and narratively stunning epic romance that explores themes of social class, destiny, and passion.
Tess was released in northern France and Hardy’s England and also became one of the most expensive films made in France to date. In the end, it proved to be a monetary success and was well received by both film critics and the general public. Polanski won the French César Awards for Best Picture and Best Director, as well as getting his fourth Oscar nomination (and also his second nomination for Best Director).
The film received three Oscars: Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Costumes, and was also nominated for Best Cinematography. Nastassja Kinski also remembers his influence on her during the filming: “He was really a gentleman, not at all as I had heard. He introduced me to beautiful books, plays and films.
It was nearly seven years before Polanski’s next film, Pirates, an expensive costume drama starring Walter Matthau as Captain Red, which the director intended as a tribute to the beloved swashbucklers Errol Flynn of his youth. Captain Red’s henchman. Jean Baptiste, was played by Cris Campion.
Plot: The story follows the pirate captain Red, portrayed by Walter Matthau, and his crew of bumbling pirates. Red is on a quest to find a hidden treasure on the tropical island of Cobra. Along the way, they encounter a series of eccentric characters and embark on adventurous escapades, including a showdown with an enemy captain played by Cris Campion. The film is characterized by comedic situations and pirate-themed gags.
Review: “Pirates” is known for its light and comedic tone, and Walter Matthau delivers an amusing performance as Captain Red. The film is a kind of parody of traditional pirate movies and focuses on humor and adventure rather than violence. It’s a departure from Polanski’s more serious works and has been appreciated for its fun and carefree approach to the pirate genre.
The film was shot in Tunisia, using a full-size pirate ship built for production. It was a commercial failure, it only recouped a small portion of its production budget and was nominated for an Oscar.
“Frantic” is a film directed by Roman Polanski in 1988. This is a psychological thriller that offers a gripping plot and constant tension.
Plot: The film follows the character of Dr. Richard Walker, portrayed by Harrison Ford, an American surgeon visiting Paris with his wife Sondra, played by Betty Buckley. However, their trip takes an unsettling turn when Sondra mysteriously disappears from their hotel. Richard finds himself entangled in a web of conspiracies and intrigues as he desperately tries to find his wife. During his search, he encounters a young Parisian woman, portrayed by Emmanuelle Seigner, who helps him in his quest to unravel the mystery.
Review: “Frantic” is known for its gripping storytelling and Harrison Ford’s intense performance in the lead role. The film perfectly captures the claustrophobic atmosphere of Paris and creates a constant sense of suspense. The well-constructed plot keeps viewers on the edge of their seats as Richard attempts to uncover the mystery of his wife’s disappearance. It’s an engaging psychological thriller that showcases Polanski’s versatility as a director.
Bitter Moon (1992)
“Bitter Moon” is a film directed by Roman Polanski in 1992. This is a psychological thriller based on the novel of the same name by Pascal Bruckner, known for its emotional and sexual tension.
Plot: The story follows the couple of Nigel, portrayed by Hugh Grant, and Fiona, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, as they embark on a cruise along the Mediterranean Sea. During the cruise, they encounter another couple, Oscar, played by Peter Coyote, and Mimi, portrayed by Emmanuelle Seigner. Nigel and Fiona are initially drawn to the security and passion of Oscar and Mimi, but soon discover that beneath their charming facade lie secrets and dark dynamics.
Review: “Bitter Moon” is known for its fast-paced narrative and intense performances by the cast. The film explores the complex dynamics of human relationships, desire, jealousy, and manipulation. Polanski creates an atmosphere charged with emotional and sexual tension that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. Peter Coyote and Emmanuelle Seigner’s performances add depth to the characters. It’s a compelling psychological thriller that highlights Polanski’s mastery in creating suspense.
Death and the Maiden (1994)
“Death and the Maiden” is a film directed by Roman Polanski in 1994, based on the play by Ariel Dorfman. This is an intense psychological drama known for its gripping plot and extraordinary performances.
Plot: The story is set in an unspecified South American country after the collapse of a military dictatorship. Paulina Escobar, portrayed by Sigourney Weaver, is a woman who has been tortured and sexually abused by members of the regime. One day, her husband Gerardo Escobar, played by Stuart Wilson, meets a doctor, played by Ben Kingsley, who offers them a ride home. When Paulina hears the doctor’s voice, she becomes convinced that he is one of her torturers. An intense conflict ensues among the characters as Paulina seeks revenge and justice.
Review: “Death and the Maiden” is known for its intense storytelling and the extraordinary performances of Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, and Stuart Wilson. The film explores complex themes related to justice, forgiveness, and revenge. Polanski creates a constant and claustrophobic tension within the protagonists’ house. It’s a psychological drama that highlights Polanski’s talent in directing films that challenge the viewer to reflect on profound moral issues.
The Ninth Gate (1999)
“The Ninth Gate” is a film directed by Roman Polanski in 1999. This is a supernatural thriller also known as “La Nona Porta” in Italian, based on the novel “The Club Dumas” by Arturo Pérez-Reverte.
Plot: The film follows the story of Dean Corso, portrayed by Johnny Depp, a rare book expert who is tasked with authenticating a 17th-century manuscript known as “The Nine Gates to the Kingdom of Shadows.” This manuscript has been linked to occult practices and the devil himself. Throughout his investigation, Corso uncovers a series of mysteries and murders related to the manuscript and becomes embroiled in a dangerous journey through the occult.
Review: “The Ninth Gate” is known for its dark and mysterious atmosphere, typical of supernatural thrillers. Johnny Depp delivers a convincing performance as Dean Corso, and the film tackles themes related to the occult and mystery in a compelling way. The complex plot keeps viewers engaged as Corso unravels the secrets of the Nine Gates. The film captures the fascination with the occult and antiquity in a captivating manner.
The Pianist (2002)
In 2001, Polanski made The Pianist, an adaptation of the eponymous WWII autobiography by Polish Jewish artist Władysław Szpilman. Szpilman’s experiences as a persecuted Jew in Poland during World War II were evocative of those of Polanski and his family. While Szpilman and Polanski fled the concentration camps, their family members did not, dying. When Warsaw, Poland, was chosen for 2002 as the location of The Pianist, “the nation exploded with satisfaction”.
Plot: The story is set during the Nazi occupation of Warsaw during World War II. Władysław Szpilman, portrayed by Adrien Brody, is a talented Polish-Jewish pianist. After his family is deported, and he is forced to live in the Warsaw ghetto, Szpilman desperately tries to survive while witnessing the horrors of the Holocaust. His music becomes a beacon of hope as he seeks refuge in various parts of the devastated city.
Review: “The Pianist” was critically acclaimed and won the Academy Award for Best Director for Roman Polanski and Best Actor for Adrien Brody. The film is known for its raw and realistic portrayal of Holocaust events and Polanski’s ability to capture the horror and human resilience during such a dark period. Brody’s performance is moving and powerful. It’s a touching film that offers a painful but important perspective on history.
Due to the fact that Polanski was reportedly incarcerated in the United States, he did not attend the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood. Star Harrison Ford collected the award for Polanski and then presented him with the Oscar at the Deauville Film Festival five months later in a public ceremony. Polanski was subsequently awarded the Crystal Globe Award for his impressive and imaginative contribution to world cinema at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 2004.
Oliver Twist (2005)
Oliver Twist is an adaptation of the original story by Charles Dickens, written by Ronald Harwood of The Pianist. Polanski stated in interviews that he made the film as something he can teach young people and that the young scavenger’s life mirrored his own life, defending himself in WWII Poland.
Plot: The film follows the adventures of Oliver Twist, portrayed by Barney Clark, a young orphan who escapes from a workhouse for exploited boys and ends up joining a gang of young thieves led by Fagin, played by Ben Kingsley. Along his journey, Oliver desperately seeks a family and a place where he can belong. The story highlights the challenges and adventures he faces along the way.
Review: “Oliver Twist” is known for its faithfulness to Dickens’ original material and the solid performances of the cast. The film effectively captures the bleak and oppressive atmosphere of Victorian London and offers a reflection on Oliver’s struggle to find his place in the world. Ben Kingsley delivers a memorable performance as Fagin. The film is a fresh take on a beloved literary classic that addresses themes of poverty, social injustice, and hope.
The Ghost Writer (2010)
The Ghost Writer, a thriller centered around a ghost writer working on the memoirs of a character loosely based on former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, triumphed at the European Film Awards in 2010, winning 6 awards, including Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and Lead. When it premiered at the 60th Berlinale in February 2010, Polanski won a Silver Bear for Best Director, and in February 2011 it won 4 César Awards, the French version of the Academy Awards.
The film is based on a novel by the British writer Robert Harris. They were also approaching production when the film was canceled due to an actors strike in September 2007. The cast includes Ewan McGregor as the author and Pierce Brosnan as former British Prime Minister Adam Lang. was shot in Germany.
In the US, film critic Roger Ebert has included it in his top 10 picks for 2010 and says that “this film is the work of a man who knows how to direct a thriller. Co-star Ewan McGregor agrees. , after saying about Polanski that “he is a legend … I have never thought so highly of a director and the way he works.
“Carnage” is a film directed by Roman Polanski in 2011, based on the stage play “God of Carnage” by Yasmina Reza. This is a film that explores interpersonal dynamics and bourgeois civility through a series of sharp dialogues and verbal clashes.
Plot: The film begins with a meeting between two couples, the Cowans and the Longstreets, portrayed respectively by Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly, and Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz. They have come together to discuss an incident in which the children of both couples were involved. What starts as a civilized conversation soon descends into chaos, with the characters clashing verbally, revealing prejudices, tensions, and personal vulnerabilities.
Review: “Carnage” is known for its talented cast and how it captures underlying tensions in bourgeois society through the dynamics among the characters. The film is predominantly set in a single apartment, creating a sense of claustrophobia and intensity. The performances by the actors are exceptional, with Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilly delivering memorable interpretations. The film explores themes of civility, politics, and hypocrisy with dark humor and sharp wit. It’s a penetrating observation of human relationships and the masks we wear in society.
Venus in Fur (2013)
“Venus in Fur” is a film directed by Roman Polanski in 2013, based on the play by Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. This is a film that explores power and submission through an intensely psychological relationship.
Plot: The film follows the story of Thomas Novachek, portrayed by Mathieu Amalric, a theater director searching for the perfect actress for the lead role in his production of “Venus in Fur,” a work based on Sacher-Masoch’s novel. After a long and frustrating day of auditions, Thomas meets Vanda Jordan, played by Emmanuelle Seigner, who seems to be the opposite of what he was looking for. However, when Vanda starts to act out the part, the line between reality and fiction begins to blur, and a complex power dynamic develops between the two.
Review: “Venus in Fur” is known for its intense storytelling and the extraordinary performances of Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Seigner. The film explores the nuances of desire, control, and submission through the relationship between the two main characters. Polanski creates a claustrophobic atmosphere as the story unfolds primarily in a single theatrical setting. The film offers a deep psychological reflection on human nature and power dynamics in relationships.
Polanski worked with the play’s author, David Ives, on the script for the film. The film was shot from December 2012 to February 2013 in French and is also Polanski’s first non-English feature film in forty years. The film premiered in competition at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival on 25 May 2013.
Based on a True Story (2017)
“Based on a True Story” is a film directed by Roman Polanski in 2017, based on the novel of the same name by Delphine de Vigan. This is a psychological thriller that explores the boundaries between reality and fiction.
Plot: The film follows the story of Delphine Dayrieux, portrayed by Emmanuelle Seigner, a successful writer who is going through a period of creative and personal crisis. One day, she meets Elle, played by Eva Green, an enigmatic woman who begins to infiltrate her life. Elle seems to know a lot about Delphine and quickly becomes an influential figure. However, Delphine begins to suspect that Elle may not be who she claims to be, and her presence becomes increasingly obsessive and threatening.
Review: “Based on a True Story” is known for its intriguing plot and the performances of Emmanuelle Seigner and Eva Green. The film plays with the concept of reality and fiction, leading viewers to question the truth of what is being narrated. Roman Polanski creates an atmosphere of psychological tension as the story unfolds, and the film explores themes of identity, envy, and manipulation. It’s a psychological thriller that challenges the perception of reality.
An Officer and a Spy (2019)
“An Officer and a Spy” is a film directed by Roman Polanski in 2019, also known as “J’accuse” in French. This is a historical drama based on the Dreyfus Affair, a famous espionage scandal that rocked France in the late 19th century.
Plot: The film tells the true story of French army officer Alfred Dreyfus, portrayed by Louis Garrel, who is wrongly accused of treason and passing military secrets to the Germans. Colonel Georges Picquart, played by Jean Dujardin, is tasked with investigating the case. Gradually, Picquart uncovers evidence suggesting Dreyfus’s innocence and the unjust accusation against him. However, the military establishment and the French government seek to conceal the truth, leading to a conflict between the officer and the corrupt system.
Review: “An Officer and a Spy” has been acclaimed by critics for its compelling storytelling and the performances of the lead actors, especially Jean Dujardin in the role of Georges Picquart. The film explores themes of justice, corruption, and abuse of power, reflecting on the politics and society of the era. Roman Polanski’s direction provides an accurate immersion into 19th-century France, and the film offers a profound insight into the Dreyfus Affair and its historical implications.