22 May 2002 | tbaybars
An astonishing directorial debut
When I first saw this film on its release in London (1962) I was only too ready to dismiss it as a pastiche of Ingmar Bergman. I am therefore more than glad to have seen it again on tv a couple of nights ago. How totally mistaken I was! It is an original film through and through, and the young Polanski had already his artistic stamp ready to forge on his first work (Three men and a wardrobe was not directed by him, I don't think). Forty years on, what is so astonishing is that the film and therefore the social, emotional and psychological problems examined in it, has not aged at all. Communist Poland? What does it matter? A young student hiking his way? So what? A young woman "married ???" to an older man? Entirely timeless and placeless. What remains as solid as ever is the primordial conflict between two men, one weaker the other stronger, but you cannot be so sure about that, in the presence of a woman who is both a sex object and a recipient of the seed of one of the two men. Why is the couple without child? How can a woman whose "husband" is dangerously swimming ashore to summon help, can be so relaxed as to have sex with the young man when he is going to vanish from their lives within a few hours?
Louis Malle famously said that he prefers the filmgoers to leave the cinema with lots of questions in their heads, rather than answers to all the questions in the film. Polanski has never stopped doing that.