I may be on some sort of unannounced blogging hiatus, but how can I possibly go without writing a word on the arrest of Roman Polanski ?
The facts are well-known and I will keep it short: Polanski was accused in 1977 by the authorities of plying then 13 year old Samantha Gailey with champagne and a sliver of a quaalude tablet and then having sex with her during a photo shoot at actor Jack Nicholson’s house. As a part of a plea bargain, Polanski pled guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, but the judge refused to accept the plea, thinking it let him off too lightly. Ultimately Polanski fled to France, and has lived for the last 32 years without arrest, till the events of last week, when he was arrested while trying to enter Switzerland where he was going to be honored at a film festival.
Normally, I would be mildly indifferent to this incident. But because it is Polanski, I cannot. Since my early undergrad years he has been my favourite director, aye, the greatest of all time. His movies have an astonishing ability to move and horrify and mesmerize my insides, and some of them, such as Bitter Moon, are part of me in a sense I cannot adequately convey. Like a true fan, I have collected all his works, famous and less-known, and I have hunted down his autobiography in some obscure book-shop and then read it cover to cover. I know every trivia about him that’s worth knowing. I have loved him with all my heart and cried for the tragic misfortunes that have marked his life. So naturally, I feel an extraordinary affinity for him and his fate.
So what really happened all those years ago with this 13 year old girl? First of all, I have always believed that statutory rape, especially with older victims (those who are in their teens), is an entirely different and far less serious crime than actual rape. Not just because the act is consensual but also because the age of consent is such an arbitrary construct. But Polanski’s case is even more interesting. For Polanski has always maintained that while (consensual) sex did take place, no drugging happened and the girl represented herself as an adult at the time of the event. I believe his version completely. Indeed the probation report itself quotes one of the witnesses as saying, “She appeared to be one of those kind of little chicks between — could be any age up to 25. She did not look like a 13-year-old scared little thing.” And if we were to accept that Polanski reasonably thought the woman was 18, I do not think he deserves to be charged for anything.
Could it be that my thinking is biased due to my immense admiration for the man? Possible, but if it is biased it is so in such an inextricable way from my being that it is hopeless to try and separate it out. And that’s why this post had to be written. For this is after all a personal blog, and Polanski’s fate is of personal importance to me.
And it all happened in the city I live in currently!