(1976, Fr, 111 mins) Dir Roland Sacher. Cast Roman Polanski, Romy Schneider, Hans Neuber.
It’s plain to see what attracted Polanski to a rare performing role in Sacher’s second film – it’s the story of a man (Monsieur P, Polanski) under house arrest in his apartment in an anonymous European city where everyone speaks English who is spiralling into madness and is repeatedly visited and interrogated by a beautiful woman (Schneider). All three of the main points here – the enclosed space, the slide into insanity and the beautiful woman – tick the right boxes for the diminutive Polish auteur. There is a fourth thing too: oppression by unknown forces. Monsieur P wakes one morning to find a letter having come through his letterbox stating that until further notice he is forbidden to leave. He tries anyway and is confronted by Hans Neuber’s trenchcoat-clad goon waiting in the hallway. He calls his work but they already know about his arrest and request that he not contact them until the board have discussed the matter themselves. He calls his family but they are no longer there. What is happening to him? Why is his life falling to pieces? Then his interrigator arrives and with her the meat of the film too – a series of two-handers where the interrogator dissects every moment, every slight and folly of Monsieur P’s life. Filmed while Polanski was in Paris making The Lodger, it’s an interesting film for him to have made at that particular point in his life following his comeback with Chinatown and just prior to the arrest that would see his move to Europe made permanent.