People may wonder why we Poles tend to get so emotional when talking about Roman Polanski. Whilst being one of the most respected and internationally acclaimed movie creators, he has not only delivered top-notch cinema throughout his career, but also never seemed to forget about his Polish background, and constantly reminded the world about it. And frankly, since we do not get much of that sort of worldwide (in this example well-deserved) recognition, he simply makes us proud. That is why Polanski’s arrest, which occurred in October in Switzerland, caused so much fuss and commotion – particularly in Polish cultural circles. Many statements, often contradictory and controversial, were tossed around. Sadly, someone who has followed the media coverage might get the impression that most of the commentators seemed to forget the big picture of the entire case, basing their statements on mostly irrelevant factors (such as Polanski being a great director). Marina Zenovich’s film, which finally had its Polish premiere last month, gives us a fine opportunity to witness the background and origins of the entire situation, by following the course of the original Polanski trial, the development of the charges, the line of defence and in particular the media coverage and its influence on the trial’s final outcome.
One of the most difficult tasks a documentary film director has to face is finding a proper structure for all of the gathered footage and information, so that the final outcome reflects the true nature of things while at the same time being an engaging experience for the audience. This is where Zenovich’s movie really shines, delivering its message with the clarity and curiosity normally associated with a traditional feature film.
Polanski’s situation is introduced in a very dynamic and interesting fashion, concluded by his own comment regarding his getaway from the United States: “…Yes, I fled. I felt trapped like a mouse.” This and many other statements in the movie are often followed by excerpts from Polanski’s films, such as Rosemary’s Baby, creating very intriguing metaphors of Polanski as a victim of a plot he’s not aware of (on the other hand, Rosemary may also be seen as a young and innocent victim of a film director, a mastermind who orchestrates the drama she plays a role in).
Polanski: Wanted and Desired also does a great job of delivering an essential selection of facts and quotes needed to understand the context of the case. Zenovich narrates the story, interviewing prosecutors, the defense, Polanski’s friends and representatives of the press to provide the audience with a full spectrum of information. In addition, she utilizes a selection of subtle film language elements, such as dynamic montage, to enhance the reception. Zenovich’s film also features some exceptionally well chosen music that accompanies the movie’s narration, underlining particular moments and creating a unique sense of pulse, highly enriching the experience.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the movie benefits from the feeling of being in the very centre of events, while at the same time remaining as objective as possible.
Many of Polanski’s movies share one common theme: a fear of being controlled or trapped by an unknown force, perhaps echoing his experience as a child in the Nazis’ wartime ghetto. After following the story of the trial as described in the Marina Zenovich documentary, we might get the feeling that what seemed to be one of Polanski’s greatest fears had returned to haunt him.