Today in history: controversial director Roman Polanski is born

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Fri, 18 Aug 2017 - 11:22 GMT

Roman Polanski – Courtesy of Wikimedia

Roman Polanski – Courtesy of Wikimedia

CAIRO – 18 August 2017: Today, August 18, marks the birth of French-Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski, who is both renowned for his groundbreaking cinematic classics and reviled for a sexual assault case involving a minor.

Polanski was born in Paris, 1933, to Jewish parents. After moving to Poland just before World War II, his parents became victims of the Nazi regime. Polanski only survived by fleeing the concentration camps and pretending to be a roman-catholic boy. Though he still suffered abuse so brutal it left him with skull injuries, the young Polanski had made it out alive.

He would study filmmaking in Poland, with his debut film being 1962's 'Knife in the Water,' and already received enough acclaim that it was one of the first ever major Polish movie to be nominated for an Oscar. Polanski had already managed to assert himself as a striking new voice in cinema, and his later releases would continue to prove this.

With 1968 came one of Polanski's best known classics and indeed, one of Hollywood's most acclaimed horror movies; ‘Rosemary's Baby.’ Starring Mia Farrow, the film deal with the topics of paranoia and pregnancy, involving the titular Rosemary (Farrow) as a young wife who must deal with her growing fear as she become mysteriously pregnant by what she fears may be the devil.

The film won an Oscar for actress Ruth Gordon as Best Supporting Actress, and Polanski himself was nominated for the 'Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium' Oscar. It had seemed that Polanski had a bright future and career ahead of him, but this was not to be so.

Only a year after the release of ‘Rosemary's Baby’ came the horrific murder of Polanski's actress wife, Sharon Tate, by the Manson family. Polanski was out of the country when the crime occurred, and he came to learn that both his wife and his unborn son, who she was over eight months pregnant with, had been brutally slaughtered.

In 1977, the director became part of a scandal when it was revealed that he had sexually assaulted a 13 year old American girl, reportedly drugging her into submission.

The case took America by storm, with an outraged public crying for justice. Polanski had only been in jail for a few weeks when, fearing punishment he fled the U.S. for good.

He still continued to direct, even then, and in 2002 came 'The Pianist', starring Adrien Brody as a Jewish Pianist trying to survive persecution during WWII. It won 3 Oscars and was nominated for four more.

Recently, Polanski has once again come into public outrage over yet another sexual assault accusation by a woman named 'Robin', according to the New York times. This is in fact the third time; also according to the New York Times, British actress Charlotte Lewis was another victim of the director, claiming he had assaulted her when she was only 16.

To separate the art from an artist is a hotly debated topic; there can be no denying what Polanski has contributed to cinema, just as there can be no denying the crimes he had committed.

In the end one can only form their own conclusions as to whether art can, or should, outlast atrocity.

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