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Roman Polanski was born in August 1933 France and in comparison, to
Godard has a much more elaborate collection of work from films ranging in
classic European art cinema to blockbuster Hollywood films made for the masses
to enjoy. Polanski and his family moved to Poland shortly after his birth and witnessed
Germanys invasion of Poland first hand with his mother and father both being
sent to concentration camps.

 

Polanski fell in love with theatre at a young age and started
creating short films in his twenty’s but it wasn’t until 1958 when he finally
broke through with his award winning short film Two Men and a Wardrobe which follows two young men carry around a
large cabinet through a town causing problems to everyone around them. In the
majority of Polanski’s student films, the features contain next to no dialogue
which is something he believed wasn’t necessary in short film.

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Moving on to Polanski’s first full feature film Knife in the Water (1962) which was
nominated for the best foreign language film at the academy awards follows
three main characters on one general location which is still unusual for its
time and country of origin to not mention the war or any overt politicisation. The
restricted boat location leads to a triangular composition to stress the
tension both sexual and otherwise and the common battle between brains and
brawn and young and old. Both the male characters in the film often take part
in various forms of machoistic aggression to try and win over the female
character of the film. Polanski captures these battles with intense wide angle
closeups, these diverse camera angles keep the setting interesting visually and
it is apparent when viewing the film how much Polanski values the importance of
framing in his films which may be due to his background in photography as a
student.

 

Due to the open ending of the film and its lack of condemnation of
the character committing adultery cause a lot of criticism and the film was
denied a premiere and only had a limited release.

 

Fast forward to 1974 when Polanski directed Hollywood blockbuster Chinatown, Polanski subverted the
classic film noire genre by including elements of incest and bright colours
unlike anyone had been used to before. The film follows private investigator Jake
Gittes as he uncovers a conspiracy regarding the ownership of the city’s water
supply. One common theme featured in this film that we see in a lot of Polanski’s
other work is that of inevitability and people just accepting things as they
are, the classic line of “Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown” is telling of this in
the film.

 

One other main themes Polanski uses in his films is isolation, it’s
the clear plot point of Knife in the
water (1962), Repulsion (1965), Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Tenant (1976) but it could also be
argued that elements of isolation also appear in The Pianist (2002) and The
Ghost Writer (2010). Polanski often plays with the fish out of water
narrative concept placing somewhat ordinary characters in situations where they
are a few steps behind everyone else around them. This is evident in Rosemary
being surrounded by Satanists in Rosemary’s
Baby, Jake Gittes trying to solve the conspiracy in Chinatown (1974) and Trelkovsky’s suspicions of his neighbours in The Tenant. Not only this because
Polanski also likes to play with the paranoia that isolation can inflict on
people, this is something that Polanski may draw from his upbringing in Poland.

 

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