The Polanski Case
Roman Polanski was arrested on Saturday at the Zurich airport on an American-issued warrant. But to hear the protests from the French, the Poles and other Europeans, you might have thought the filmmaker was seized by some totalitarian regime for speaking truth to power.
“Judicial lynching,” said Jack Lang, the former French culture minister. “Absolutely horrifying,” echoed the current French culture minister, Frédéric Mitterrand. “Provocation!” shouted Andrzej Wajda and other Polish filmmakers. From across Europe, nearly 100 representatives of the entertainment industry, including Pedro Almodóvar and Wim Wenders, signed a petition declaring themselves “dismayed” by the arrest — and especially that it happened when the Zurich Film Festival was to honor Mr. Polanski.
But hold on a moment. After being indicted in 1977, didn’t Mr. Polanski, now 76, confess to having sex with a 13-year-old girl after plying her with Quaaludes and Champagne? Didn’t he flee the United States when the plea bargaining seemed to fall apart, raising the prospect of prison time? Isn’t there a warrant for his arrest?
There was something strange about the Swiss deciding to arrest the director now, after having let him freely move in and out of the country for three decades. And a 2008 documentary by Marina Zenovich, “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” raised some troubling questions about the bizarre way a celebrity-hungry judge in California, Laurence Rittenband, handled the case.
Yet where is the injustice in bringing to justice someone who pleads guilty to statutory rape and then goes on the lam, no matter how talented he may be?
In Europe, the prevailing mood — at least among those with access to the news media — seemed to be that Mr. Polanski has already “atoned for the sins of his young years,” as Jacek Bromski, the chief of the Polish Filmmakers Association, put it, and that any justice system that would pursue so great a filmmaker for so long “lacks equity and humanity,” as Mr. Lang said.
We disagree strongly, and we were glad to see other prominent Europeans beginning to point out that this case has nothing to do with Mr. Polanski’s work or his age. It is about an adult preying on a child. Mr. Polanski pleaded guilty to that crime and must account for it.
(My bold added at the end there.)