Roman Polanski: A Cinema of Invasion

Thematic and stylistic auteur studies are one of the enduring staples of film scholarship. The video essay format provides ways to reinvigorate that particular approach. Obviously, working with the imagery from the movies themselves gives the videographic approach more immediacy than a written text: rahter than having to dig up images from memory while reading, the footage is directly available (with the scholarly insights often provided in the form of a running commentary). But there’s more. The very fabric of the audiovisual essay allows for more poetical ellipses in the argumentation. Visual motifs or auditive cues can be used as shortcuts: ways to elegantly (and effortlessly) segue to a new topic. A leap of thought that would take a paragraph or more to explain on the page can be justified with just a single well-chosen cut.


This particular essay produced for the Australian Centre for the Moving Image by Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin is a case in point. In little over a quarter of an hour it provides an impressive amount of insight into Roman Polanski’s modus operandi. It achieves this economy exactly by having its verbal reasoning follow the audiovisual edit, not the other way around. In addition, it craftily uses several of the video essay’s rhetoric devices (such as side-by-side presentation) to make its case.