Are Roman Polanski films worth watching

Debate on the film - How much Polanski is in “J'accuse”?

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An accused director filmed a judicial scandal: Can Polanski and his new film be separated - and should one?

Author: Michael Sennhauser

There were loud protests in the run-up to the premiere of Roman Polanski's film “J'accuse” at the Venice Film Festival. A director who has molested a minor should not make a film about one of the biggest European judicial scandals of the 19th century.

One must distinguish between work and artist, argued those who nevertheless consider “J'accuse” to be worth seeing. But can you do that at all?

A monument worth millions

Seen objectively, «J’accuse» is a strong, sometimes brilliant film. It is a meticulous reconstruction of the Dreyfus Affair, in which the Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus was wrongly demoted and deported in France in 1895 for betraying military secrets.

With a budget of millions, Roman Polanski has erected a monument to the sense of justice of an upright man who stands against public opinion.

When Polanski compared himself indirectly to the innocent Dreyfus in an interview before the world premiere, he did not refer to the abuse case in which he had pleaded guilty.

He was referring to the murder of his wife Sharon Tate by the Manson family in August 1969 - and to having been suspected at that time of being the murderer of his wife.

Inseparable or detached?

Anyone who knows about Polanski's personal story and has also heard the more recent allegations will hardly be able to avoid thinking about the director every now and then in the cinema.

At the latest when Polanski treats himself to a tiny appearance as a concert-goer in his own film, it is no longer possible to separate work and artist from one another.

However, millions of viewers have been proving for decades that it is very possible to experience a film completely detached from the intentions and biography of the director. “Gone with the Wind”, for example, is one of the most famous works of classic Hollywood - but who can spontaneously name the director of the film? (Fun fact: there were even three, but the mastermind behind the film was producer David O. Selznick anyway.)

Roman Polanski's “J'accuse” is - in itself - a strong film and an impressive history lesson, with a clear moral point of view.

Broadcast: Radio SRF 2 Kultur, Kultur aktuell, February 13, 2020, 7:20 a.m.

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