Film director Roman Polanski flew to Zurich, Switzerland on September 26th to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival. Instead, he was arrested after fleeing a conviction for felony thirty years ago in California.
I can't help but imagine the hope of prosecuters as they waited to see if the filmmaker would show up for such a celebration. He'd always been careful to avoid picking up an Oscar, but surely within Europe he would be left alone to reflect on an astounding career.
I'm actually an admirer of his films. We studied Knife in the Water at Ryerson, as well as Chinatown in my screenwriting class.
His version of Oliver Twist is absolutely heartbreaking and haunting.
And The Pianist is unrelenting, searing and somehow hopeful amid all the horror of war.
It is my belief, however, that a man who flees justice is saying more by that act than any one of his celluloid masterpieces will ever hope to do.
What was the felony he was charged with?
Statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl.
Using sedative drugs to disarm the girl and ensure the victim's compliance.
Let's stop for a moment and recall a few statistics about pedophile predators:
"Al Carlisle, former prison psychologist, estimates that a pedophile may molest as many as 100 children before he is caught." - Stephen T. Holmes, Ronald M. Holmes, Sex Crimes: Patterns and Behaviour
"Ego-psychologists assert that pedophiles have never developed a well-defined sense of self. Having sexual contact with children enables the pedophile to surmount the sense of shame, humiliation or powerlessness experienced during victimization as a child." - Juliann Whetsell-Mitchell, Rape of the Innocent
Now let's look at Roman Polanski's early childhood:
At age 6 he was herded into the Krakow Ghetto in Poland, where he lost his parents to imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps. His mother perished, his father survived.
Roman escaped the ghetto and was taken in by Polish Catholics until he was reunited with his father.
Sufficiently traumatic for anyone.
For those wondering why a 76-year-old man should face charges dating back thirty years, would anyone ask the same question if he was a priest who had raped a child in the 70's? The public is generally eager to prosecute priests. Is it because they don't direct incredibly remarkable films?
For those remembering that in addition to Polanski's nightmarish childhood, his thirties were marred by the gruesome murder of his wife Sharon Tate, eight months pregnant, by Charles Manson's Family - surely one might think the man has suffered enough for one lifetime.
Certainly his films are colored by his losses and emotional pain: Repulsion, The Tenant and Rosemary's Baby.
I still return to the knowledge that he fled a conviction to which he pleaded guilty by jumping bail, and returning to France where there is a firm refusal to give up its citizens to foreign governments. Moreover, Polanski curtailed all travel plans if there included any chance of being returned to face US authorities.
Until this last decision to attend the Zurich Film Festival.
His lifetime achievement award became a jail cell.
Ms Snarky Pants says Personally I think if he didn't want to end up in prison he shouldn't have had sex with a 13 year old girl after giving her drugs.
Marsha says His victim, 13 at the time, can't put it in the past as the media keeps bringing it forward.
Akelamalu says Being a fantastic film director doesn't excuse raping a child does it, even if it was 30 years ago? I cannot feel sorry for him. :(