Roman Polanski

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Roman Polanski is currently being detained in Switzerland stemming from charges that he had sex with a minor in 1977. After his initial arrest, Polanski fled to France where he has remained in exile to avoid sentencing by California law enforcement.

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Over the years there have been many men like Polanski, most notably Woody Allen, who have used their power to influence naive girls into sex by manipulating them. Woody Allen went on to marry his long time partner, Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn. Even though Allen was not Soon-Yi’s father, he was her mother’s significant other and likely represented a dominant male figure in her life. So for him to make the transition as Miss Previn’s pseudo-father figure into lover seemed repulsive to me. You don’t help raise a child and then marry her.

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With Polanski there is a long history of trauma. A victim of the Holocaust, Polanski fled his native Poland to make films in the United States. And that he did with acclaim, creating iconic films like Repulsion, Rosemarie’s Baby, The Tenant, and Chinatown. He was a well respected director at the time of his arrest and pleaded guilty to having sex with a minor after drugging her with Quaaludes and intoxicating her with champagne at the home of Jack Nicholson. Perhaps her mother was wrong to leave her young daughter alone with a man. My parents left me in the charge of a Scout Master who was also a highly decorated police officer when I was eleven. He molested me for over a year before I finally told my parents.

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Mr. Polanski was left a widower from one of the most famous and gruesome cases the world has known. Charles Manson and his followers brutally murdered Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate, who was pregnant at the time. This left an already traumatized Polanski, bereft and devastated. This was made quite clear in the 2008 documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. I know because I watched it  several times and came away feeling as though the California criminal justice system manipulated the 1977 incident making Polanski into a monster. A small monster who was deeply troubled by his torturous past.

In the documentary, the victim, now an adult pleads to have the incident put behind her. She also settled with Mr. Polanski for an undisclosed amount. Perhaps if my Scout Master paid me off, I might have done the same. I hope she used that money to seek the help of a great therapist. I continue to see a therapist to this day.

My intention is not to provoke a discussion on the merits of Mr. Polanski’s film making. He is a great director. The issue at hand is whether or not you believe that time heals all wounds; and if you do, then Mr. Polanski should be set free. He has led a law-abiding life: got married, had children. He has made a significant contribution to society with award winning films, The Pianist and Rosemary’s Baby.

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But allow me to refocus some facts on the life the camera obscurer often imitates. During my book tour last year, I discovered that the man who molested me wrote his own book, The Cop and the Kid, in which he described how he talked a suicidal teenager off a building and then adopted him. Since then my molester has adopted 13 boys in total. He was awarded father of the year. He is now a retired police officer who lives happily knowing that the sins of the past are now behind him. I am unable to press charges due to a statute of limitations even though it is a fact that most victims of child molestation do not come to terms with their abuse until they are adults. 

Portraits of men like Polanski and the one who molested me on camping trips are Polaroid pictures from an event that never fade in the minds of its victims. I ask you to stop focusing on the abuser and redirect your attention on their victims. They are the ones that suffer the most.

As a budding film maker in college, I viewed a special screening of Repulsion, and I remained an admirer of Polanski’s films ever since. My favorite directors of all time are now the ones that are rallying behind him in support. Men like Martin Scorcese, David Lynch and Pedro Almodovar. These men, like Polanski, have created some of the best cinema the world has ever known, often utilizing an eerily similar vein of the malevolent amidst normalcy. I only hope these men stick to what they do best and leave the legal system to do what is right and just.

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2 Comments

  1. Tim B.
    Posted October 6, 2009 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    Mr. Polanski had a rough life. I guess that makes rape all ok.

  2. Simon Glass
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    The double horror of Holocaust survivor and widower at the hands of Manson is unspeakable, I agree, and the trauma of such a brutal chain of events can’t be underestimated on the psyche of the man, however to argue the case that these in some way mitigate or lessen his crime is a banal and specious argument, one can equally argue that given Polanski’s first hand experience of human depravity and senseless evil he should have been more sensitive to the trauma of a powerful aggressor abusing a helpless individual.

    I don’t believe that argument, it’s simplistic and banal, but it’s the flip side of the case for mitigating circumstances. Indeed I feel that using the Holocaust and Manson to, if not excuse, but lessen the gravity of his acts, cheapens those horrors, renders them almost bathetic, robs them of their power and significance.

    Polanski’s actions towards Samantha Geimer have to be taken for what they are in the circumstances that they are and treated as such.

    The documentary was highly contentious and simplistic on several counts. Polanski’s argument that he fled because he was worried that he was no longer to be given a “free pass” after pleading guilty to the lesser charge of “unlawful sex with a minor”, that he was somehow coerced or tricked into pleading, is uncomfortable to say the least. For starters who in their right mind would plead guilty to such a charge if they were innocent. What is more to the point is why on earth such a plea bargain was allowed by the DA and Judge Laurence Rittenband in the first place.

    Secondly the rather salacious content of the documentary where Rittenband’s civic relationship with a 20 year old was somehow used to imply that Rittenband was punishing Polanski for his own “near paedophilia” is verging on the libellous. The difference between Polanski and a consenting adult of 20 is vast and yes the thought of a 78 year old and a 20 year old isn’t exactly a pleasent mental picture, but it’s legal and no way should be used to sway opinion, to detract focus from the events of that night between Polanski and Geimer.

    Had Polanski fled before sentencing or the trial he would of course be scott free, the statute of limitations applying to child abuse, but there is of course no statute to fleeing after sentencing. Polanski has had a full career in exile, indeed Hollywood has gone out of its way to ensure that he worked and that they continued to distribute and produce his films, even honouring him with Oscars and several other achievement awards, the exile wasn’t exile. And indeed when one thinks of the careers ruined by Mccarthyism, the fear of communisim and accusations of homosexuality the double standards that proven child rape is no impediment to a career is distasteful and sick.

    I’m glad Polanski is finally facing the music, child abuse is anti life, as pure a distillation of evil as one can imagine, the events of that night recounted in all their lurid detail over and over can’t be underplayed, it was abuse and rape of the most horrendous nature – and a few good films cannot in any way make up for that. The use of The Pianist to demonstrate Polanski’s humanity is nauseating – he made a Holocaust movie, so what?

    And the use of Tate and his mother to condone, pardon, explain??? his actions is vile.


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