Why does the left defend Roman Polanski

In times of witch hunts

Comment: Once again, Roman Polanski is in the headlines. He is the real winner at the Venice Film Festival - a victory against rampant hypermoralism

I don't know the people I'm accusing, I've never seen them, I have neither grudges nor hatreds of them. For me they are only appearances, symptoms of the sickness of society. And the act I am taking is just a radical means of hastening the outbreak of truth and justice.
I only have one passion, that of light, in the name of humanity, which has suffered so much and which has a right to happiness. My fiery protest is just the cry of my soul.

Emile Zola: "J'accuse!

That was more than a big surprise at the end of the Venice Film Festival: The American Todd Phillips, previously only known to experts, won the Golden Lion of Venice for his film "Joker" on Saturday evening.

The real winner of this year's Venice edition, however, is the French-Polish director Roman Polanski, who for his film "J'Accuse!" got the special prize of the jury.

"J'Accuse!" tells of the Dreyfus Affair 125 years ago, based on Robert Harris' novel "An Officer and Spy". The story is shameful enough as it is. Polanski describes the facts soberly and clearly. His film eschews cheap updates, sensationalism and malicious jokes that relate to the present.

The social weaknesses of a mass democracy

His approach is very classic in a sense. The film begins in early 1895 with Alfred Dreyfus' public demotion and humiliation. Then it goes back and forth between the course of the years 1895-1906 and looking back at the previous history, which culminated in the allegations against Dreyfus in the fall of 1894.

It's all a bit of a detective story that focuses on gaining clues. Above all, this is also the story of a hitherto unknown, downright secret hero, Colonel Marie-Georges Picard - a whistleblower at the turn of the century.

Polanski shows the political and social weaknesses of a mass democracy with great nonchalance. His story of the Dreyfus Affair shows how freedom of expression turns into populism and how populism turns into demagogy and agitation: it shows book burnings, anti-Semitic riots and conspiracies by a right-wing conservative, Catholic, military clique.

This film also recalls the struggle of a certain section of the political left, which is now completely forgotten: a political left that really opposed the existing state with radicalism, even if it was formally a democracy, and which really resisted it Makes.

In this way Polanski reminds of what real victims are in the political struggle, what other people have risked: their lives, their health, their honor. Our present is far from such positions and from people like Emile Zola or Georges Clemenceau.

So this is a contemporary story: About the witch hunts of the present, which Polanki can sing a song about himself; About the anti-Semitism of our time in France and Germany, about surveillance madness, about whistleblowers.

Multiple legends in the case of Polanski

It is clear that this also ironically targets the moral and puritanical cleansing fury of Polanski's accusers. Because there is also a hypermoralism that sets examples with campaigns against individuals. Sometimes the comments in advance and the allegations against the festival because it shows this film gave the impression that it wasn't about Polanski at all, but about Venice.

Is it a coincidence that it was almost exclusively American media that fueled the outrage over Venice? Couldn't it be that mundane industry interests are behind all of this? The anger of the North Americans that it is not Toronto, Telluride or Tribeca that has become the central launch pad for the Oscars in recent years, but old Europe with one of the most European and historic cities - Venice?

In the last few weeks in the Venice area in particular, this unbearable multiple legend formation in the case of Polanski is striking: So it is downright cute how it is said again and again that Polanski is accused of "abuse" - no! You have to make a very clear distinction: Roman Polanski does not accuse Roman Polanski of abuse or any incidents in connection with "#Me too".

What Polanski is accused of is rape and sex with minors. He admitted the latter, not the former. He has been convicted and he has accepted that sentence. He did not evade the process, only its resumption.

All of this has been adequately represented - in books, in newspaper articles, in films like Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. For over three decades no one has had a problem with Roman Polanski. Polanski has been invited to festivals such as the Berlinale and to Cannes, where he won the Palme d'Or in 2002.

The problems with Polanski only came after a right-wing, puritanical and ultra-conservative US society gained the upper hand, its judiciary and President George W. Bush issued a new arrest warrant in 2008, and Switzerland put Polanski in custody for a while in 2009 had taken.

According to the European legal conception, Roman Polanski is not charged, according to the European legal conception, the American conception is contradicted. This applies in Switzerland, France, Germany and many other countries.

It is unbearable to see how European media simply adopt a legal opinion from the arch-conservative side, which is controversial even in the USA, and how these media then also feel liberal, and also believe that they are the "cause of women" in some form defend or help her.

The whole Polanski case harms the "women's cause" because it is so obviously unfair; Here it is measured with obviously double standards that the unfair treatment of the person Polanski only leads to the fact that this can be used by interested parties as an argument to generally cast doubt on rape and abuse charges.

Something else is added. In the opinion of all liberal legal systems, including that of the USA, no offender can be convicted twice for the same crime. But this is exactly what is supposed to happen with Polanski.

What was Polanski supposed to do now, what his quick and superficial accusers are demanding? Surrender yourself to a judiciary which the same people who are persecuting Polanski now, actually despise from the bottom up, and consider them to be racist - and rightly so! There is little more irrational and stupid than the behavior of many people in the "Polanski case".

"Life sentence"

Actually one wants to give Polanski life sentence: life-long public ostracism; lifelong public persecution; Lifelong public prohibition on making films, receiving funding for films, seeing these films performed, life prohibiting participation in film festivals - all of this is not only unfair and immoral. It is also completely questionable under the rule of law and a scandal.

Here the show trial is made to a symbolic figure. Even convicted murderers are granted rehabilitation, reintegration into civil life after 15 years. Polanski doesn't. Why?

Polanski is a figurehead, a symbolic figure, an icon of the libertarian counterculture around 1968. In addition, Polanski makes films that appear "tasteless", "perverse" and "provocative" in the bourgeois mainstream and the honest men. Polanski is in the mood for provocation and he has no desire to apologize to the good citizens.

Does all of this really have nothing to do with the fact that Polanski is such a symbolic figure? Does it really have nothing to do with the fact that his films are what they are? And does it really have nothing to do with the fact that Polanski is Jewish?

(RĂ¼diger Suchsland)

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