Sul caso Polanski un duro commento
Not Above the Law. No moral objection to Polanski’s arrest
From The Times, September 29, 2009
The conservative daily The Times – United Kingdom, comments on the arrest of film director Roman Polanski on his entering Switzerland on the weekend. Talent and personal tragedy should not have kept Roman Polanski free
When Roman Polanski won his Oscar for The Pianist in 2003, in absentia, many of Hollywood’s finest rose in a standing ovation. At a most generous interpretation, they were celebrating the eventual triumph of a man who has suffered great hardship in life, and who has produced numerous works of cinematic genius. Unquestionably, Polanski has done both of these things. He also, in 1977, had unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl, pleaded guilty, and then left the United States before he could be sentenced. This is why the Swiss authorities arrested him on Saturday, and why they were right to do so.
Polanski has lived a life that arouses a considerable emotional response. Born in Paris but raised in Poland, he survived the Cracow ghetto and lost his mother to Auschwitz. Later in life, he lost his second wife and their unborn child in a horrific attack by members of the “Manson Family”, the murderous 1960s cult.
Eight years later, Polanski’s own crimes were not minor. According to The Times Archive for March 26, 1977, Polanski was charged with “rape by use of drugs, lewd and lascivious acts against a child of under 14, unlawful sexual intercourse, perversion, sodomy and furnishing a drug to a minor”. The victim was a model called Samantha Gailey, who was 13. Eventually, as part of a plea bargain and amid a predictable media circus, Polanski pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful sex. He subsequently fled to Europe.
Even among Polanski’s supporters, few have ever protested his innocence. Since Saturday, nonetheless, a clamour of French voices has been campaigning on his behalf. President Sarkozy is said to be “following the case with great attention”. Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister, has written to Hillary Clinton to call for his release.
This is remarkable stuff. Even if the more lurid charges were false, Polanski has spent the past three decades as a self-confessed and convicted paedophile, on the run. Personal tragedy does not change that.
Nor does talent, even if Polanski’s is formidable. His Oscar nominations for Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown and Tess were well deserved as, on artistic merits, was his award for The Pianist. His conviction does not detract from the strengths of those films, but nor should those films have any bearing on his conviction. That he has become a fashionable cause célèbre is a stain on the conscience of Hollywood.
Since fleeing the US, Polanski has lived mainly in France, avoiding countries from where extradition seemed likely. It is for this reason that he has avoided the United Kingdom since 1978, even going to the lengths of giving evidence via a video link in a libel trial in 2005. His lawyer now protests that his client owns a house in Gstaad and has travelled frequently into Switzerland in the past without authorities batting an eyelid. This merely raises the question why not.
Three decades have passed since Polanski’s crime. He is now 76, and has a wife and two children. Perhaps there is now no benefit to be derived from jailing him. Perhaps, as has been suggested, his original trial was flawed. Either way, such things are a matter for the courts. Great artist or not, there has been no moral justification for Polanski’s freedom these years, just as there can be no moral objection to his arrest.