I was as surprised as anyone that the Swiss authorities nabbed Roman Polanski as he entered Switzerland to accept a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival.
I was surprised mainly because I didn’t think that Polanski would be dumb enough to enter a country that doesn’t have the same protection from extradition that his home country of France does. This lack of protection in the United Kingdom was the very reason why he refused to testify in person in the 2005 trial for his own libel lawsuit against London’s edition of Vanity Fair and instead persuaded the judge to allow him to give testimony via video link!
Even more incredible is the fact that Polanski visited Switzerland several times in the past for skiing trips without being abducted by authorities.
Now, supporters are surfacing in droves to chastise the Swiss authorities and the United States for apparently perpetrating this dastardly deed.
Swiss filmmaker Christian Frei says he “feel(s) deeply ashamed.” I would like to ask Mr. Frei, and the thousands of others who feel the same way he does, why exactly he feels ashamed that a man who admitted getting a 13-year-old girl drunk and then raping and sodomizing her was apprehended by the law. Would he feel similarly “ashamed” if a man who had raped his barely teenaged daughter was caught by the authorities?
Photographer Otto Weisser, a friend of Polanski’s, was quoted by CNN as saying, “He’s a brilliant guy and he made a little mistake 32 years ago.” He made a little mistake. Let me repeat what I said above: he admitted to drugging a 13-year-old girl so he could have sexual intercourse and sodomize her. In case you missed it that second time: 13-year-old girl, drugged, intercourse, sodomized. I would ask Mr. Weisser the same question I would ask Mr. Frei – would you feel the same way if it were your daughter?
Others want to remind us of the atrocities Polanski experienced in his life. His mother died in 1942 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, and he barely escaped the Krakow Ghetto, surviving the war with the help of sympathetic Roman-Catholic families (his experience was the basis of the story for his Academy Award winning film The Pianist). His first wife, up and coming actress Sharon Tate, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant at the time, was murdered in 1968 along with 4 friends by followers of Charles Manson. I wouldn’t dream of belittling these tragedies but point out that having suffered in your own life doesn’t give you a free pass to cause suffering to others.
The most egregious statements are those that indicate that Polanski should be shown leniency because he is a famous and highly regarded filmmaker. Indeed, he is considered one of the best directors of all time, having made such classic films as Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown and the aforementioned The Pianist. However, the gall of such luminaries as French culture and communications minister Frederic Mitterrand, who wanted to remind us that Polanski “benefits from great general esteem” due to his “exceptional artistic creation and human qualities” would be sickening if it weren’t so comical. Despite what you may have inferred from O.J. Simpson’s murder trial, you don’t get to commit crimes against other people with no repercussions just because you’re famous.
And let’s not forget that after pleading guilty and admitting to the crimes for which he was accused, Polanski fled the country. Why should he be shown leniency when he’s not even willing to face the consequences of his actions?
No, Roman Polanski should not be shown any leniency at all. He committed those crimes, and he admitted it. His flee from justice clearly shows that he didn’t, and possibly still doesn’t, believe that he deserves to be punished for his crimes. Stop making excuses for him.