Simply writing the words Roman Polanski can evoke reactions both passionately defensive and virulently angry. So we can only imagine how readers will feel upon hearing words from the embattled/polarizing director himself.
As you may have heard, for the first time since he was arrested in Switzerland more than seven months ago, Polanski has spoken out. The director had been considered the interview get to end all interview gets (although he had, in his own way, communicated with the moviegoing masses with the release of his well-received "The Ghost Writer" in the U.S. earlier this year). But like so many in this blog-happy age, he decided to go directly to the public -- "without any intermediaries," in his phrase -- posting an entry on Sunday on the blog of French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy.
In an unusually personal passage, Polanski pleads for clemency. "I am not going to try to ask you to pity my lot in life. I ask only to be treated fairly like anyone else." Then, in eight distinct statements that begin with the phrase "I can remain silent no longer," Polanski recounts the ways he says he felt misled and mistreated by California legal authorities.
The essence of Polanski's claim is that, as his supporters have argued, he was led to believe that his time in a state facility in Chino would constitute his full sentence, and has been frustrated for the past three decades as U.S. authorities have maintained otherwise. "The request for my extradition addressed to the Swiss authorities is founded on a lie," he writes.
"I can remain silent no longer because for over 30 years my lawyers have never ceased to insist that I was betrayed by the judge, that the judge perjured himself, and that I served my sentence," referring to the decision by Laurence Rittenband to potentially deport and/or sentence Polanski to more jail time after the time served in Chino, which prompted Polanski's fleeing in September 1977.
Perhaps most substantively, Polanski says that the current extradition request is informed by both personal resentments and publicity calculations. "I can no longer remain silent because the United States continues to demand my extradition more to serve me on a platter to the media of the world than to pronounce a judgment concerning which an agreement was reached 33 years ago."
Polanski also notes Marina Zenovich's 2008 documentary "Wanted and Desired,"
which, although it has been responsible for both the authorities and the public looking at the case in a new light, Polanski argues may also have paradoxically created the conditions for a vendetta. Zenovich's film "not only highlighted the fact that I left the United States because I had been treated unjustly; it also drew the ire of the Los Angeles authorities, who felt that they had been attacked and decided to request my extradition from Switzerland, a country I have been visiting regularly for over 30 years without let or hindrance."
Citing that he has mortgaged his apartment to post bail and noting the limitations created by his house arrest in a home in the Swiss mountain town of Gstaad, Polanski concludes with a further plea. "Such are the facts I wished to put before you in the hope that Switzerland will recognize that there are no grounds for extradition, and that I shall be able to find peace, be reunited with my family, and live in freedom in my native land" (a reference to France, where he was born and his family lives, and to which he has been unable to return as he remains under house arrest pending the U.S. extradition request).
As it has from the beginning, the Polanski case is about more than just one filmmaker and his battle, just or not, against the U.S judicial system. It touches on several hot-button issues: child protection (complicated further when the child, now grown, says she has been protected enough), and the treatment of Hollywood personalities and all the various standards applied to them.
Is this statement enough to change anyone's opinion, least of all the U.S. district attorneys who can end the extradition request? Like almost no other polarizing figure in this polarized age, the mention of Polanski gets passions burning and tongues wagging. Which means the answer is: probably not. The blog entry may ease Polanski's internal sense of unease. What it won't do is change minds. In fact, the comments are just likely to harden them. New evidence in the case didn't affect most people's opinions, so words from the man himself will likely only embolden those calling for the dismissal of charges -- and once again raise the ire of those who feel he hasn't been brought to justice.
-- Steven Zeitchik
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Photo: Roman Polanski on the set of "The Ghost Writer." Credit: Guy Farrandis / Summit Entertainment
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