One of the biggest news stories in Europe this weekend was the arrest of famed movie director Roman Polanski in Switzerland on a 30-year-old arrest warrant from the United States. More interesting than the arrest itself is the reaction of those on the continent falling all over themselves to come to Polanski’s defense.
Many readers know Polanski as the justly acclaimed director of award-winning films such as “Rosemary’s Baby”, “Chinatown”, and more recently, “The Pianist”. Some may also recall that Polanski was struck by tragedy in 1969 when his wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by the followers of Charles manson. However, readers may not be aware that in 1977 Polanski was arrested in California and charged with rape and sodomy of a child, after he drugged and molested 13-year-old model Samantha Gailey. Polanski, knowing his goose was cooked, wisely agreed to a plea deal in which those charges were dismissed in return for Polanski’s guilty plea to the lesser charge of unlawful sex with a minor (statutory rape.) However, before he could be sentenced, Polanski fled the country and has been a fugitive from US justice since then, while continuing to be a celebrated movie director in Europe and even in Hollywood.
Polanski is being held in a Swiss prison pending a formal request for his extradition to the US. Amazingly, Europeans including the Foreign Ministers of France (Polanski’s adopted home) and Poland (his native country) are calling for him to be released on bail. Riiight, because he couldn’t possibly be a flight risk now could he? France’s foreign minister called the arrest a “bit sinister”, and the French Culture Minister said, “there is also a scary America that has just shown its face.” Seriously? Bringing pedophile rapists to justice is “sinister” and “scary”?
Others are spreading the rumor that the arrest was motivated by pressure from the US or that Switzerland is trying to curry favor with the US. This is ridiculous for anyone familiar with Switzerland, which is famous for its rigid application of the letter of the law regardless of who benefits or suffers. You’d be hard pressed to find a country more devoted to law and order this side of Singapore.
Here’s what the French film community had to say:
“It seems inadmissible … that an international cultural evening, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, is used by police to apprehend him.”
In other words, how dare anyone try to enforce the law when artists are busy telling each other how wonderful they are, which is clearly much more important? European and other celebs are also upset because Polanski was nabbed in the oh-so-posh resort town of Gstaad. They are undoubtedly concerned about what other flagrant crimes (i.e., drug use) they are no longer going to be able to get away with in their Swiss playground.
Finally, we have this statement from the Polish Filmmakers’ Association:
“[Polanski has] atoned for the sins of his young years. He has paid for it by not being able to enter the U.S. and in his professional life he has paid for it by not being able to make films in Hollywood.”
While there is some truth to this, if it’s so compellingly obvious, why not face the music and let the courts decide whether Polanski has been punished enough? In fact, Polanski has actually had the nerve to file (in absentia of course) to have his case thrown out of court. As if a fugitive from justice deserves any consideration from the court system!
In fact, Polanski’s stubborn refusal to face justice like a mortal human being -coupled with the European attitude that a great artist (which in fairness he is) should be allowed to rape anybody he wants is exactly why this case has never died. The success of “The Pianist” in 2002 angered the Justice Department which renewed its push for Polanski’s arrest starting in 2005. Had Polanski simply returned to face the music voluntarily years ago, it is likely that his age (he is 76), questions about improper procedure in the original court case, and the testimony of his victim (who just wants the whole thing to be over with after settling with Polanski out of court years ago), would have led to leniency.
But Polanski has never expressed any genuine contrition or acknowledgement that what he did was wrong. So like O.J. Simpson, he has become an example of how the rich and famous manage to avoid justice. As such, there will be calls to make an example of him.
One last thought – How do you think the thousands of registered sex offenders in the US – many of whom are guilty of nothing more than consensual sex with their underage girlfriends – must feel watching Polanski celebrated and fawned over in Europe while they can barely get a job or live within half a mile of a school?