In some ways, Roman Polanski's life reads like a horror movie. He was born Rajmund Roman Thierry Polanski in Paris France on August 18, 1933.
After his family relocated to Poland, young Roman hid from the Nazis, posing as an Aryan while his mother and other members of his family were either forced into the Krakow Ghetto or killed - or both.
He attended the National Film School in Lodz, Poland and shortly after graduation, directed his first full length feature, 1962's Knife in the Water, a dark psychological thriller.
He then made several films in England, most notably the excellent Repulsion (1965) starring lovely Catherine Deneuve. Another tense study in psychological terror, this one documents the mental deterioration of a beautiful young woman left alone in her apartment.
Polanski's first American film was the breakout blockbuster Rosemary's Baby (1968) based on the bestselling novel by Ira Levin. Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) is an innocent housewife living in Manhattan with her actor husband Guy (John Cassavetes).
After she discovers she is pregnant, Rosemary becomes increasingly convinced her baby was brokered by her husband together with a coven of satanists who live in the building. The classic film would be the second entry (after Repulsion) in Polanski's exceptional "Apartment Horror Trilogy."
Not long thereafter (in August of 1969) Polanski lost his wife, actress Sharon Tate, at the hands of the Charles Manson clan during a brutal killing spree commonly referred to as the "Helter Skelter" murders.
Within two years, Polanski filmed his version of Shakespeare's Macbeth in 1971. Shakespeare, a horror? Absolutely. It's bloody, terrifying and atmospheric. Many people at the time thought it inappropriate that Polanski would make such a violent film after the tragedy involving his wife.
In 1974, he shot the acclaimed Chinatown starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. He then went to France to film the final entry in the apartment horrors, 1976's supremely chilling The Tenant. Another brilliant study in mental disintegration, this one had Polanski doing double duty, both behind the camera as director - as well as in front as leading man.
1978 was an unfortunate turning point in Polanski's life and career. He fled from the United States after having been charged with the statutory rape of a fourteen-year-old girl. He remained in exile in France until his arrest in Switzerland in September of 2009.
In July of 2010, Swiss authorities refused to extradite the director to America and he was freed. We hope Roman Polanski is now able continue making solid, intelligent motion pictures.
|The Fearless Vampire Killers
|Knife in the Water