Mixed emotions as Roman Polanski turns 85 | Film | DW | 17.08.2018

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Mixed emotions as Roman Polanski turns 85

The Polish director has had a career spanning nearly six decades. But can his professional work be considered without reflecting on his controversial private life?

The past is always catching up with Roman Polanski. Many members of his family, including his mother, were murdered by the Nazi regime. Polanksi himself only just escaped a similar fate. The next tragedy to befall him was the brutal murder of his heavily pregnant wife, the actress Sharon Tate, in 1969.

Then Polanski went from victim to perpetrator. In 1977 he was charged with the rape of a 13-year-old girl. He pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, but fled the United States before the final sentence was handed down. He has since been accused of assault by several more women.

Read more: Oscars Academy expels Bill Cosby and Roman Polanski

60 years of film

Plenty has been written about Polanski over the years: about his private life, his Polish roots, his French homeland, his relationship to the United States, and of course his films.

During a career spanning nearly 60 years, the director made some 20 feature films and several shorts, back in the early years. He has even cropped up here and there in acting roles and has also strayed, if seldom, into the theatre and opera world.

While some of his more recent films, such as this year's movie adaptation of Based on a True Story, have fallen somewhat flat, he still counts several "masterworks" among his titles, like the psychological thriller Rosemary's Baby or crime mystery Chinatown.

Roman Polanski's wife rejects Oscars' Academy invite over husband's expulsion

Controversial figure

There is no doubt that the director has a huge body of work behind him as a noted film director – but is it really possible to consider this professional achievement without reflecting on the man's complicated past and controversial present? A similar debate is currently surrounding Woody Allen – the hugely successful Hollywood director who has been accused of sexual assaulting his step-daughter.

Polanski himself said in an interview in 1986 that every film is a kind of "psychoanalysis" that "reflects the soul of the director."

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