‘I am an observer, at a voyeur. It’s just that I like to share what I see with others. A voyeurwould like to keep it to himseli.’
peculiarly apposite here: ‘I am an observer, not a voyeur. It’s just that I like to share what I see with others. A voyeur would like to keep it to himself.’
Polanski’s films trap their characters within a tight physical or social space which acts like a pressure cooker, forcing them to emotional and psychological extremes. Witness the shipboard tensions of his only Polish feature, Knife In The Water (1962), the claustrophobic apartment and paranoid delusions of The Tenant (1976), or the incestuous perversities of Chinatown (1974). ‘Even when I was a kid,’ says Polanski, ‘I enjoyed those enclosed space movies much more than the cavalry running down the hill with me trying to figure out who was fighting who. I remember that ﬁlms like Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out had a great impact on me. Although it doesn’t happen in one room, it is set within a city which is shot in the studio, therefore it has an atmosphere that is not like the real world, but slightly artificial. If you have a confined space — a huts clos as the French say — that gives you the opportunity to show those extreme moments. It’s a very revealing situation for people.‘
There is a cruelly funny moment in Bitter Moon when, after Mimi and Oscar have split up and he has been crippled in a road accident, she returns to act as his nurse and tormentor. With delicious irony, Oscar says: “It crossed my mind that you might still love me. After all, it’s no fun hurting someone you don’t care about.’ Without this ironic turning of the tables, Oscar’s catalogue of cruelties to Mimi would be impossible to take, and Polanski dredges up a childhood memory to illustrate why the symmetry of their love-hate relationship is so crucial: ‘Otherwise, it would be just one facet of Oscar’s character and he would just be the bad guy to the end. It would be only one-dimensional and that wouldn’t be interesting at all.
‘I will never forget a scene I witnessed when I was a kid. I saw two guys fighting on the street; they were drunk, but they had a real fight. This guy was punching the other against a wall, and I had a sudden surge of
anger in me. I was helpless because I was a kid, but I would like to kill that guy who was doing the punching. But it went on and somehow they swung around, the puncher fell, and suddenly the other one was on top of him. Soon he was kicking the puncher in the face, and I had the same hatred against him.
‘I just walked away - I was only fourteen or something— and I thought it’s incredible how partial you can be if you are witness to only a moment of somebody’s life, and how easily your feelings can swing. And this ﬁlm is a little bit like that. When you learn that somebody did something cruel, it’s always
‘lt’s incredible how partial you can be it you are witness to only a moment oi somebody’s lite, and how easily your feelings can swing.’
out of context, you don’t know what has been done to him just before. Which doesn’t excuse anyone from those acts, but you have to see them in context.
‘I wasn’t thinking of it at the time, and that wasn’t why I was making the film or what interested me about the book; but when you mention that turning of the tables, it brings back that memory, which I very often quote, because it really had an impact on me.’
Bitter Moon opens across Scotland on Friday 2 October.
BITTER MOON FEATURE
The List 25 September -— 8 October 1992 7