Pity Roman Polanski, the maker of such great films as “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Chinatown,” and “The Pianist,” for which he won an Oscar in 2003. Despite creating some really beautiful works of art, he’s led quite the tragic life.
He grew up in Jewish in Poland in the late 30s and 40s, when it was a very bad time to be a Jew. He saw most of his friends and relatives brutally murdered by the Nazis though he somehow managed to escape from imprisonment in the Krakow ghetto. His father barely survived the Mauthausen death camp, but his mother was murdered at Auschwitz.
Somehow he made his way to the good old USA, picked up the pieces of his life, and forged a career for himself directing movies which received both popular and critical acclaim.
He met and married the love of his life, actress Sharon Tate. But only a year-and-a-half after their wedding, she and their unborn child she was carrying were brutally and mercilessly murdered by Charles Manson, one of the most notorious serial killers of all time. To make Polanski’s devastation worse, the police considered him a suspect for a while, adding insult to injury. (To put it mildly.)
Somehow he again managed to pick up the pieces of his life and poured his soul into his art. (The period after the murder of his wife included the incredibly powerful “Chinatown.”)
Eight years later, in 1977, he had a momentary, though granted pretty serious, lapse of judgment. He had sex with a 13-year-old girl. He was arrested on a series of charges and spent 42 days in jail during which he underwent psychological evaluation. His lawyers and the prosecution worked out a plea-deal: he would plea guilty to one charge of statutory rape, the other charges would be dropped, he would get credit for time served, and then pay a hefty fine.
However there was evidence of judicial impropriety: supposedly the judge had been illegally influenced. He was about to refuse the plea deal and was going to sentence Polanski to considerable prison time. Polanski learned of this just before the sentencing, and was convinced the system was corrupt and that he would not be treated fairly. Perhaps motivated by painful childhood memories, he jumped bail. He left the country and flew to France, where he has lived in exile for three decades, never again to return to the US or other countries like Great Britain which have extradition treaties with the US.
In the years since, the victim, Samantha Geimer, who is now a woman of 45, has moved on. She has publicly stated that she has forgiven him and has no desire to open old wounds. She has requested that the state of California drop the charges against Polanski.
Despite that, though, authorities have continued to hound him for thirty years. Polanski has accrued large legal fees, has been unable to cast, shoot, or edit films in Hollywood, has had his reputation tarnished and lost favor in many previously-adoring fans, and could not even collect the Oscar that he earned for “The Pianist.”
Last week, two days before Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, he flew to Switzerland where he expected to attend the Zurich Film Festival which was to honor him with a Lifetime Achievement Award. When he stepped off the plane, he was immediately arrested by the Swiss police who were acting on behalf of American authorities. He is currently awaiting extradition to the US where he’ll be sentenced on 32-year-old charges.
What good does this do anyone?
If he does go to prison, they will be incarcerating the wrong man. Polanski is not the same person that he was in 1977. (Think back to the person you were 30 years ago and ask yourself if you are the same person you were back then. If you are less than 30, take your age and cut it in half.) Polanski is not a threat to society. He has not been accused of any other crime, before or since.
What “justice” can this serve? The victim herself doesn’t even want it. The only purpose that the imprisonment of a 76-year-old artist can serve is to stroke the egos of the obsessive Javerts of this world. Do we really want to reward their vain, dogged, and wasteful pursuit of a non-threatening artist? Why can’t they spend their energies pursuing real criminals, like terrorists, who are actually engaged in real plots to kill innocent people?
Immediately prior to his arrest, Polanski was editing his film “The Ghost” which was scheduled for release early next year. Now, who knows when he’ll get a chance to finish it and the world will be able to view his latest work.
Anyone with any sense should realize that Polanski’s arrest serves no value. The charge against him should be dropped and he should be allowed to return to the US a free man.