Roman Polanski, who pled guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor in 1978 and has yet to serve a single day of his sentence, has been awarded the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice International Film Festival for a film about a wrongfully accused man.
The Polanski-directed An Officer and a Spy is based on a 2013 book about the Dreyfus Affair and tells the story of a French military officer who discovers that a Jewish officer in the French military was convicted of spying for Germany based on false evidence, resulting in a life of imprisonment. Polanski did not attend the festival to accept his prize because he is a convicted sex offender who cannot travel much for fear of being sent back to America, where he would face punishment for a crime to which he pled guilty.
And that inability to partake in international parties provided just the insight Polanski needed to empathize with the unjustly accused Alfred Dreyfus, according to a recent interview:
“Working, making a film like this helps me a lot. In the story, I sometimes find moments I have experienced myself, I can see the same determination to deny the facts and condemn me for things I have not done. Most of the people who harass me do not know me and know nothing about the case….My work is not therapy. However, I must admit that I am familiar with many of the workings of the apparatus of persecution shown in the film, and that has clearly inspired me.”
It’s easy to see how Polanski might find those parallels. Since his conviction, Polanski has been persecuted with an Oscar, two Golden Globes, and the Cannes Palme d’Or, which is exactly like the story he tells in his film except that Alfred Dreyfus didn’t do it, had to go to prison after he was convicted, and wasn’t given a wheelbarrow full of awards by people who never gave a shit about the crime he was accused of in the first place.