Thanks to his darkly unique perspective and grim, often nihilistic approach to storytelling, director Roman Polanski has left an indelible mark on world cinema. Although his films have been compared to those of Alfred Hitchcock, with their use of gallows humor, tension, and occasional surrealism to tell amoral stories of ordinary men struggling to cope in a hostile, ironic world, Polanski, unlike Hitchcock, has chosen to experiment with a variety of genres. In this regard, the director has considered himself a "cinematic playboy" intent on exploring the possibilities of all film categories. A uniformly pessimistic viewpoint provides the clearest link to entries in Polanski's body of work, something that is widely traced back to years of childhood trauma.
The son of a Polish Jew and a Russian immigrant, Polanski was born in Paris on August 18, 1933. When he was three, his family moved to the Polish town of Krakow, an unfortunate decision given that the Germans invaded the city in 1940. Things went from bad to worse with the formation of Krakow's Jewish ghetto, and Polanski's family was the target of further persecution when his parents were deported to a concentration camp. Just before he was to be taken away, however, Polanski's father helped his son escape, and the boy managed to survive with help from kindly Catholic families, although he was at times forced to fend for himself. (At one point, the Germans decided to use Polanski for idle target practice.) It was during this period that Polanski became a devoted cinephile, seeking refuge in movie houses whenever possible. The cinemas provided him a type of protection that was brutally absent in the outside world.