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In Roman Polanski’s “Bitter Moon”, the art of comparing and contrasting are used to the point of exhileration. As the film opens, Nigel and Fyrna, a husband and wife of seven years, are travelling on a cruise in search of a more exciting life. They are not very happy at the moment, but they are content enough to not want to rock the boat. Sound familiar?
One day, Nigel and Fyrna come across a woman who is sick to her stomach. They then help her recover by taking her to the bathroom to throw up. After, Nigel and Fyrna think nothing more of the encounter. They just accept it as being one more event in their daily wanderings around the ship.
As the voyage goes on, the unexplained sea sick woman begins to flirt more and more with Nigel and he is flattered. That is, until a man named Oscar appears in a wheelchair and states that the woman is his wife.
Oscar then begins to tell Nigel the story of how he met his wife, Mimi, and it is fascinating tale; full of romantic longing, passion, s & m sex, hurt, betrayal and revenge.
What Roman Polanksi sets up here is a great question: Should a relationship be safe and boring or truly risky and dangerous? By having a non threatening relationship, Nigel and Fyrna have chosen to simply exist with one another. Oscar and Mimi, on the other hand, are wild, adventurous, daring and passionate.
Polanski also suggests it could also have something to do with the background cultures of the couples as well. Both Nigel and Fyrna are jovial repressed Englanders, while Oscar and Mimi are grotesque American/French lovers.
Since this film takes place entirely on a ship, the use of a rocking camera means more than a clever way to chronicle the sea voyage. As the relationships in this film become skewed, torn apart, reflected upon and endured, the feeling in the film is that it’s not just the ship that is swaying back and forth.
Roman Polanski’s “Bitter Moon” is indeed a masterpiece and one should definitely check it out.
One more thing–the use of music in this film is brilliant.