Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Polanski's Evil

The disturbing thing about the “vampires as good guys trend” these days is the way that it downplays evil. Vampires have traditionally been one of the most universally held symbols of everything evil. The move to try to understand them and to give them a good side is like, well the equivalent of saying that child molesters and sexual predators are good guys and simply misunderstood. Proof that art is reflecting culture that is precisely what is going on these days as well. Roman Polanski is being defended by a shockingly large amount of “cultural elites.”

There is a difference between admiring an artist’s art and their life. Polanski is a talented filmmaker, but he is also a man who committed a terrible crime. He should face the consequences. Polanski should know better. He has suffered more than the average amount of evil in his life. In fact, his whole worldview, as seen in his movies, seems to be that the world is full of evil and good is weak and helpless against it. Many examples can be cited, but his horror comedies should suffice.

Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)
Polanski’s first American film is a dreamy, fairy-tale-ish spoof of all the popular Hammer Horror movies popular in it’s day. While they tended to be classic “good vs. evil” tales where good triumphed in the end, Polanski’s vampire hunters are naïve, easily distracted bumblers. Even though they manage a scheme to escape the vampire castle with the damsel in the end, we are shown that evil ultimately triumphs as a result of their efforts. Good and virtuous people are helpless against the overwhelming evil in the world. Polanski seems to be saying, “Why bother combating it?”

The Ninth Gate (1999)
Thirty years after addressing diabolic evil in Rosemary’s Baby, Polanski returned to the topic in this his most direct look at evil personified. It plays out as a classic noir-ish mystery story where the “hero” spends the entire film chasing down a diabolical book supposedly written by the devil himself. He is ostensibly working for an evil man who wants the book for himself, but we clearly see early on that he will try to thwart this plot. The surprising conclusion, however, comes when he finds the book and actually uses it himself! He did not want to thwart evil at all. He was seduced by it.

Polanski is obsessed with this topic; evil triumphs in most of his films. What does this artistic vision; combined with his history, tell us about not just Polanski but the whole generation defending the man?

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