Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 


Conversations between Roman Polanski and Andrew Braunsberg tell the story of Polanski's life, beginning with his childhood in the Cracow ghetto, his first films in Poland, the move to Paris, his career in Europe and America, crowned with an Oscar for The Pianist, the tragedy of the murder of his pregnant wife Sharon Tate in Los Angeles, the controversy surrounding his US arrest in 1977, through to his work and life today in France with his wife Emmanuelle Seigner. The conversations were recorded in his home in Gstaad, Switzerland where he was under house arrest for several months after he was apprehended on his way to the Zurich Film Festival in 2009.

Review by Louise Keller:
He is wanted in one part of the world and desired in another. Such is the life of filmmaker Roman Polanski, who is as well-known for his personal life as his professional. Although the sensational facts of Polanski's personal life - as are those of his successful film career - are a matter of record, there is something exquisitely personal about this documentary in which he tells his story in conversation with his friend of over 40 years, producer Andrew Braunsberg. Polanski tells it in his own words - from his war-torn childhood in his native Poland, the shocking murder of his pregnant actress wife, Sharon Tate in America, his guilty plea to the rape of an underage girl and his life running from the legal chains that still tie him to the United States.

Ultimately it is the intimate nature of 'getting to know' Polanski that makes this fascinating documentary bristle with veracity. We get a sense of the man, the indelible impact of his childhood, his responses to the major events in his life. Credited for directing 278 films (and producing over 300), director Laurent Bouzereau has made a simple film in which to showcase its extraordinary subject. Archive footage, photographs, press clippings and excerpts from some of Polanski's 34 films are intercut throughout; most of the interview takes place in Switzerland during his 2009 period of house arrest.

There are many moving moments that come to light as the hairpin bends of Polanski's life are turned, yet for me, the most potent are those in which he is taken back to his childhood, reliving the loss of a child facing an emotional void. The elements of Polanski's 2002 Oscar-winning film The Pianist are those that bond him with his childhood, many situations plucked from his own experiences. As he admits, if there was only one film that could grace his grave, this is the one.

There are surprises too - that Polanski was almost illiterate, having been deprived of a normal schooling due to the war and learnt the alphabet from his father's typewriter. Reading was practised while watching subtitled movies. The way Polanski got into the film industry is interesting too, having been rejected from three acting schools.

Polanski's life is punctuated by great highs and lows. He calls his marriage to Tate the most idyllic time of his life; yet it was during this period that life presented him with its greatest tragedy. A self- confessed optimist, Polanski talks about the difficulty he faced when finally allowing himself to become a father - with his beautiful French actress wife of 25 years, Emmanuelle Seigner.

The intimate nature of every revelation - large and small - makes this film a personal triumph and a fascinating one.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A fine example of how sympathetic interviewing techniques can result in a probing interview that carries insights and emotion, this friendly conversation between longtime colleagues and friends Polanski and Braunsberg endures and succeeds for its simplicity and innocence. There is no hidden or obvious agenda other than to elicit highlights of a life lived in public, and one that's filled with remarkable events.

The first question we might ponder before seeing this film is how will such a friendly conversation deal with the complicated and unresolved issue hanging over Polanski from over three decades ago, when in an American court he pleaded guilty to sex with a minor. It turns out that it deals with it very effectively, and if you are heavily biased against Polanski on this matter, you cannot fail to register the fact that his story has been badly misrepresented by the media. So much so that nothing he can do will deliver justice, either to him or to the young woman - who in her maturity tells CNN's Larry King how much less damage Polanski has done to her than the combination of the media and the courts.

Polanski comes across as a product of war-torn East European culture with a personality that has been forged by his experiences during the war as a kid, and later as a talented filmmaker tossed about on the back of fate as most people are. His personal low points are balanced by highs, including his happy marriage to French actress Emmanuelle Seigner and his children.

There are memories that trigger tears and sadness, and overall, there is an air of melancholy about Polanski, but he isn't by any means dour. His old friend Andrew Braunsberg traces his life almost like a narrator, stopping to draw out more detail and more emotion.

The simple setting, at a table in Polanski's Gstaad chalet with both men in casual shirts and a no-fuss shoot with two cameras, adds to the feeling of being present at a conversation between friends, over some happy and not so happy moments. Generously illustrated with clips and stills, the film is a low key, unobtrusive exploration of someone the world doesn't really know or understand, despite his high profile as an acclaimed filmmaker. It seems evident that his character has been disfigured and his life deformed not by the atrocities of the Nazis but by the inhumanity and injustice of an American judge.

Judge for yourself.

Email this article

Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

(UK/Italy/Germany, 2011)

CAST: Documentary featuring Roman Polanski and Andrew Braunsberg

PRODUCER: Luca Barbareschi, Andrew Braunsberg, Christoph Fisser, Henning Molfenter, Charlie Woebken

DIRECTOR: Laurent Bouzereau


EDITOR: Jeff Pickett

MUSIC: Alexandre Desplat

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Regency Film Distribution

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 21, 2013

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020