Roman Polanski is breaking his silence on his long-standing rape case. As his new film, An Officer and a Spy, opens at the 76th Venice Film Festival, the long-standing case against him has once again been raised.
In 1977, Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor after being arrested for drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl in California. He accepted a plea bargain, and then fled to Europe after hearing that a judge planned to enforce a longer sentence. Since then, he apologized in private to his victim, and she accepted his apology.
Still, he is not permitted to live in the U.S. because of his fugitive status, and during the #MeToo reckoning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences expelled him from its ranks. Other women also came forward with assault allegations against Polanski.
In a highly controlled Q&A session with Bitter Moon scribe Pascal Bruckner, who seems sympathetic (he asks him at one point how he will "survive the present-day neo-feminist McCarthyism"), Polanski likens his own story to the Dreyfus Affair. (in 1893, a Jewish officer was wrongly sent to prison for treason).
Polanski says: "The story of a man unfairly accused is always fascinating, but it is also very much a current issue, given the upsurge in anti-Semitism.... Another affair is possible, definitely. All the ingredients are there for it to happen: false accusations, lousy court proceedings, corrupt judges, and, above all, ‘social media' that convict and condemn without a fair trial or a right of appeal."
Later, the director draws parallels between the film he's promoting and his own life."I can see the same determination to deny the facts and condemn me for things I have not done," he says. "Most of the people who harass me do not know me and know nothing about the case…. I must admit that I am familiar with many of the workings of the apparatus of persecution shown in the film, and that has clearly inspired me."
Polanski adds that he believes the "persecution" started when his wife Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson Family.
"The way people see me, my ‘image', did indeed start to form with Sharon Tate's death. When it happened, even though I was already going through a terrible time, the press got hold of the tragedy and, unsure of how to deal with it, covered it in the most despicable way, implying, among other things, that I was one of the people responsible for her murder, against a background of satanism. For them, my film Rosemary's Baby, proved that I was in league with the devil! It lasted several months, until the police finally found the real killers, Charles Manson and his ‘family'. All this still haunts me today. Anything and everything. It is like a snowball, each season adds another layer. Absurd stories by women I have never seen before in my life who accuse me of things which supposedly happened more than half a century ago."