As you may have heard by now, infamous film director Roman Polanski has been arrested in Switzerland more than thirty years after the fact of his crimes and may be extradited to the United States. For those of us who have been outraged by this case for decades, it may come as cold comfort to see justice finally served when the criminal is in his twilight years and has lived a live of decadent luxury for all this time, but half a loaf is better than none, I suppose. But perhaps nearly as outrageous as Polanski’s story is the jaw dropping response of industry luminaries and journalists to the news. There is probably no more insulting example of this than the incredible reaction of Anne Applebaum at the Washington Post, The Outrageous Arrest of Roman Polanski.
Of all nations, why was it Switzerland — the country that traditionally guarded the secret bank accounts of international criminals and corrupt dictators — that finally decided to arrest Roman Polanski? There must be some deeper story here, because by any reckoning the decision was bizarre — though not nearly as bizarre as the fact that a U.S. judge wants to keep pursuing this case after so many decades.
Excuse me? The arrest of Roman Polanski was outrageous? The facts of this case have never been in doubt, regardless of discussions of a judge who was “out to get him” or suggestions that Polanski didn’t know the age of his victim. He invited a thirteen year old child to the home of Jack Nicholson to be photographed with suggestions that it might be her “big break” into Hollywood. Once there, he drugged her and, over her clearly stated objections, took pictures of her in the nude. He then raped and sodomized the drugged child. And his arrest is what you find outrageous? (We should note in the interest of fairness and clarity that Mr. Nicholson was out of the country at the time and only allowing Polanski to stay at his home. He was not involved in the incident.)
Applebaum points to the many tragedies in Polanski’s life… the loss of his mother in Auschwitz and his impoverished upbringing in Poland. These things are sad, but have no bearing on his actions as a successful adult in California’s film mecca. Applebaum then piles more insult on injury with the suggestion that perhaps he’s already been “punished” for his crimes.
He did commit a crime, but he has paid for the crime in many, many ways: In notoriety, in lawyers’ fees, in professional stigma. He could not return to Los Angeles to receive his recent Oscar. He cannot visit Hollywood to direct or cast a film.
I see. So a child rapist was unable to fly to Hollywood for a dinner and to pick up an award, so clearly that should settle the score on the scales of justice. I’m sure the murderers of Bill Sparkman (should we ever catch them) will be disheartened to know that for the next five years they won’t be allowed to select anything from the dessert cart when they go out for dinner.
This was a thirteen year old girl… somebody’s daughter. Yes, she now says she has forgiven him, but I seem to recall the Pope forgiving the guy who shot him some time ago. That doesn’t mean we let the perpetrator walk. Polanski was convicted and fled the country in a successful bid to evade our legal system. He should have been in jail decades ago when it would have really mattered.
I have consistently refused to review any of Polanski’s films in my other on-line incarnation as an at large film reviewer and his continued freedom has been an affront to every decent person. It is far, far past time for him to stand before the wheel, and I certainly hope that the administration’s Justice Department plans to see this process through.
UPDATE: Patterico does a fine job in not only pointing out the “fact challenged” nature of Applebaum’s column, but that she failed to disclose the fact that her husband is a Polish foreign minister who is lobbying for Polanski’s case to be dismissed.