[EDITOR’S NOTE: Press Play is devoting much of its content this week to a study of the films of Roman Polanski, whose new movie Carnage opens the New York Film Festival this Friday, September 30. We will count down to the event by running a new video essay every day this week under the title Life’s Work: The Films of Roman Polanski. Chapter 2 of the series is a video essay by contributor Steven Santos entitled Spaces. It explores how Polanski uses physical space in his films to reveal unexpressed or unknowable traits buried in the human psyche. You can view Chapter 1 of this series, Polanski’s God, here.]
By Steven Santos
Press Play Contributor
Roman Polanski has been making films for five decades now. His latest film Carnage is yet another of his works that takes place within a single, confining location, the better to allow Polanski to explore social, political and sexual issues. From his student shorts at the National Film School in Łódź to his early features Knife in the Water and Repulsion through his more recent films The Pianist and The Ghost Writer, Polanski has consistently explored how a physical space can affect a character’s mental state.
When noticing this pattern, I asked myself: What exactly makes Polanski return to this theme over and over again? As problematic as I find about half of the films included in this essay, I was impressed by how cinematic he makes these stories, using the confines of apartments and houses to explore isolation, repression, paranoia, sexual dysfunction and madness. In Polanski’s world, home is considered less a haven than a battleground.
This video essay references a dozen films from Polanski’s career, and was made so that both fans and detractors of this divisive director will see how the juxtaposition of images from different films speak to each other, and perhaps provide insight into his obsessions.