Roman Polanski - Biography

Roman Polanski is one of the most controversial contemporary directors in Cinema History. His name has become synonymous with events from his personal life, which in fact have at times detracted and taken precedence from his work as a filmmaker.

Roman has created films that unnerve and horrify the viewer such as "Rosemary's baby" and "The Tenant", as well as the masterpiece "Chinatown" starring, Jack Nicholson. He also directed the comedy vampire movie "Dance of the Vampires (also known as The Fearless Vampire Killers) and the period drama "Tess" based on the novel by Thomas Hardy starring, Nastassja Kinski. Both of these films exude a haunting yet luminous beauty.

As a filmmaker he is exceptional in his ability to produce works with a disturbing mood and atmosphere of suspense that is impossible to replicate. His hallmark is to utilize seemingly everyday events and situations and then expose the undercurrent of evil that lies beneath; he explores the thin line between madness and sanity with compelling expertise and intuitive mastery.

Roman Polanski was born to Polish parents in Paris 1933. They moved to Krakow, Poland, when Roman was still a toddler. Roman grew up in a constricted communist environment; however, he had a highly creative intellect and created his own exceptional world of fantasy. His imagination was the key that helped him overcome the horror of War in Europe.

Whenever Roman had a chance to visit the theatre he had no uncertainties that one day he would appear on centre stage or behind the camera as a director, Roman was an incredibly confident child with grand aspirations.

Roman's father owned a plastics business in Krakow, although his parents were not rich they provided Roman with everything he needed. He was a child who in his own words "wanted everything his own way". His childhood would soon be shattered as War began in Poland.

The changes to the Jewish community began slowly and unpleasantly when Roman's parents were told to wear white armbands with the Star of David stencilled on them in blue. Roman was told it was because they were Jewish, although his parents did not practice their religion and his mother was only partly Jewish.

They were forced to move home by the Krakow Municipal Authorities. Soon after moving, Roman's sister pointed outside the window and Roman looked out to see men building a wall, he and his family were being imprisoned in a Jewish ghetto. During this time both his parents were taken to concentration camps, his mother was never to return. Roman always believed he would see her again as he had no knowledge of the Third Reich's 'Final Solution' and he never had the opportunity to say goodbye to her.

His father had paid a family to look after Roman and he was moved from one place to another doing anything he could to survive. There were times of play amongst the ruined buildings of Poland with other children, yet he would always be a witness to brutality and depravity as the war continued witnessing scenes of inhumanity.

At the end of the World War II he was reunited with his father and began to pursue his dreams of having a career in the film industry, he started by working on a Children's radio programme called "The Merry Gang". He soon acquired a lead role in "The Son of the Regiment" the story of a Russian peasant boy. He attended Art School and finally with the help of Andrzej Wajda the great Polish director he applied to and was accepted at the Lodz Film School, the world of film and fantasy and the door to his dreams. At the film school his talent was readily apparent in his first student film "Two Men and a Wardrobe". He longed to escape Poland and travel abroad to America and Paris.

The first film he made that received significant attention was "Knife in the Water" made in 1962, this was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign language film. He then directed three films in England including "Cul de Sac" and "Repulsion" starring Catherine Deneuve as a young woman suffering from a mental illness.

He married the gentle, and talented actress Sharon Tate who starred in "The Dance of the Vampires", who was brutally murdered in 1969. His next film "Macbeth" is notorious for it's violent and bloody adaptation of the play by the English playwright, William Shakespeare.

In 1977 he was involved in an American sex scandal, he fled to France where he has lived a rather reclusive life with his wife the gifted and skilled actress Emmanuelle Seigner and their two children. Polanski is admired by many other filmmakers all over the world for his genius as a director.

His most recent productions have been "The Ninth Gate" starring Johnny Depp, and "The Pianist", based on the book by Wladyslaw Szpilman's - a memoir of the author's experiences growing up in the Warsaw ghetto and surviving concentration camps during the second world war, this film will be released soon.

© 2002

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