Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Polanski, Roman

(1933-    ) French-born movie director, actor and screenplay writer, of Polish-Jewish stock. He has lived through interesting times: his mother was murdered by the Nazis in the concentration camp where he and his father were also incarcerated; his second wife, the actress Sharon Tate, was among those grotesquely murdered by Charles Manson's cult (as would have been RP himself had it not been that his airplane home was delayed); he fled from the USA to Europe in 1979, having spent some time in prison for statutory rape (it seems that he had no idea that the girl concerned was only 13). All of his work has been influenced by these dreadful experiences: even his comedies are affected by an acute sense of Evil. His first – much-admired – feature was Knife in the Water (1962; ot Noz w Wodzie). In the UK RP made one of his strongest movies – Repulsion (1965), a Psychological Thriller – as well as Cul de Sac (1966) and The Fearless Vampire Killers, Or Pardon Me, Your Teeth Are in My Neck (1967). The latter made him Hollywood's darling, and he married Tate, one of its minor stars, in the movie's aftermath. In Hollywood RP made movies including Rosemary's Baby (1968), one of the Cinema's finest fantasies of Perception (based on the Ira Levin novel Rosemary's Baby [1967]), Macbeth (1971) – based on ShakespeareChinatown (1974) and The Tenant (1976), the last a paranoid fantasy of merit. Since his exile from the USA, RP has made few movies, some of which are bad: of note are Tess (1979), based on Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891), and the Alfred Hitchcock homage Frantic (1988). At his best RP shows a fine understanding of his chosen medium – and he has contributed one of the major Dark-Fantasy movies – but overall his career must be described as patchy. [JG]

other works: Pirates (1986) is of associational interest.

further reading: Roman (1984), autobiography.

Roman Polanski


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.