Roman Polanski as a Proof of God's Existence

About thirty-five years ago I dreamed I would be a film director when I grew up. I read everything there was and watched all movies available. I thought I knew everything there was to know about cinema. I had never heard of Polanski, though, until 1979.

No wonder, considering I lived in the Soviet Union, and Polanski was an emigrant from Poland – People’s Republic of Poland, to be precise, a country that belonged to the “socialist commonwealth”, with the Soviet Union as Big Brother. The names of such people were taboo in the Soviet Union, unless the critics working under the authorities’ supervision told us a portion of lies.

The article I read in 1979 said that this particular emigrant, having betrayed his country and of course never amounting to anything worth mentioning in the West, was a notorious Satanist who held black messes and other similar orgies, during one of which his pregnant wife (another notorious Satanist) was brutally murdered. The article then dwelt on the murders with unmistakable relish inventing sordid details which I won’t cite here. Someone very skilled must have worked on this, because I, who already by that time (I was 15) took pride in myself for never believing our propaganda, swallowed it whole, along with “child molestation” and “flight from justice” that crowned the article (they didn’t emphasize this latter part, though, because it wasn’t comme il faut for Soviet press to suggest there was any justice in the United States, so they were vague about this). It left such an aftertaste that for decades since that moment I never ever wanted anything Polanski in my life. I developed the same gut feeling of loathing so many people are hypnotized into right now as I’m typing this.

I didn’t even watch The Pianist. I said to myself, I won’t have anything to do with this. Satanist and child molester? No, no, no!

Then, last April something happened.

I was working on a screenplay, and was so emotionally and intellectually exhausted that I watched a lot of horror films: there’s nothing like these if you want to purge your head and soul of all thought and emotion. I was looking through the list of available movies, and suddenly one caught my eye. The review said it wasn’t really a horror, but a doubtless classic; I saw the name of the director and flinched. I don’t know why I didn’t just reject it, like I had rejected them all for thirty years. Maybe curiosity prevailed. Or maybe my time had come.

It was The Tenant.

I have watched it maybe fifty times since. It is inexhaustible. It is, and in all likelihood will remain, my favorite film ever made.

But more important was, halfway through I suddenly realized, on instinctive level, that everything I had “known” before was a lie. The film, with its exorbitant sincerity and achingly personal note, was made by someone who couldn’t be what I had “known” him to be.

I didn’t know anything about Polanski by that time, except the piece of nonsense fed to me by Soviet propaganda thirty years before: I hadn’t followed the latest news, I didn’t even know what he looked like! I had had some vague idea that it should be someone tall and dark (a Satanist, mind you). He didn’t credit himself for acting in The Tenant, and as I was watching it that first time I was wondering who could that fantastic actor be and how come there’s someone in French cinema (that first version that I had was in French, called Le Locataire) whom I don’t know while he is so good. I had to look it up in Wikipedia.

Nothing fit the picture I had been living with. I found more Polanski movies; that spring was exceedingly busy for me, with a lot of work and travelling involved, but by end of June I watched them all (except The Ghost Writer which remained unavailable till later). My two favorite directors had been Kurosawa and Hitchcock; now I finally found my director, an ultimate director, a perfection.  

Then I started reading up on him. I felt it was my duty to find out what had really happened. And tons of information avalanched on my head.

It was then that I thanked God for my having had a lot of University education. It made me skilled in working with sources, comparing, finding original information, separating first-hand from hearsay, lies from truth, finding evidence to corroborate a statement, never taking anything at face value. I spent weeks doing nothing but reading and watching: articles, transcripts, interviews, whatever I could find.

I realize that my reader probably knows the basic facts, but I need to lay them out here for my point to be clearer.

Roman Polanski was born Roman Rajmund (not Raymond) Liebling, in a family of Polish non-practicing Jews (mother of Russian origin, half-Jewish, raised a Catholic) living in Paris. His birthday is August 18, 1933: the year Hitler came to power in Germany. Soon many Jews realized it was time to leave Europe, and headed West, for the United States.

The Lieblings, however, moved East. Back to Poland. This is the real beginning of the story, foreshadowing everything that came next. In 1938, right before the war, the occupation and the Holocaust, this family decided to move to the very center of the future hell. They settled in Cracow.

Then the war and the occupation: six infernal years. Six. You may know that Poland was the laboratory where the methods of die Endlösung der Judenfrage - "the final solution of the Jewish question" - were tested and honed. Poland was supposed to become Judenfrei – free of Jews. 

Like all other Jews, the Lieblings were forced to live in the Cracow ghetto. I won’t go into the details. The action of The Pianist takes place in the Warsaw ghetto, but Polanski used his childhood memories there.

Some memories, aren’t they? He was barely six when the horror started, eleven and a half by the end of the war. The formative years.

His mother was taken to Auschwitz in the first transport. Later he would learn she was immediately sent to gas chamber.

In March 1943 the ghetto was “liquidated”: which means, all those who still survived were transported to concentration camps; approximately 2000 of the weakest were shot on the streets. In the morning, Polanski’s father cut a hole in the barbed wire and told his son to flee, to find refuge in a Polish family with which there was some kind of agreement that when the worst came to the worst they would shelter the boy. He was blond and didn’t really look Jewish; he had a chance.

Roman goes to that house, there’s nobody there; he comes back.

This pattern will repeat in all his subsequent “flights”. He can run, but he comes back, he subjects himself to more mortal danger, and only deprived of all hope, he takes a final flight.   

Some people had already been deported, the others assembled at the Appelplatz; it’s living hell. Roman sees he won’t find his father, and he has to find a way back out; but –

He picks another boy on his way. Someone the Lieblings took care of (despite the inhuman conditions, misery and starvation) because all his family had been destroyed. Apparently little Polanski thought it was his duty to take over; you see, the boy – Stephan – was very young and couldn’t do for himself. Polanski himself was big, of course: why, eight years, almost nine; he had grown tough and streetwise with his forays beyond the ghetto walls in search for food to scrounge or steal. He never recounts this episode as heroic, only mentions it reluctantly, in connection with that scene from The Pianist. He told a guard they wanted to get back into the ghetto (from the Appelplatz) to look for some bread. He said they would come back. The guard – a Pole – let them. That’s where that “don’t run” comes from. The boys go into the maze of the now-empty streets: that’s where that Szpilman’s walk comes from. There, Roman knew every hole, pipe and duct; they escaped.

It sheds some light on why he couldn’t stay with that family. My understanding is they hadn’t bargained for two boys. That’s when Roman’s wanderings began, in the country occupied by people set on exterminating any Jew still alive. He stayed with farmers, he learned to do things. I would say he learned to survive; but it isn’t something one can really learn, one has to be born a survivor. Well, he was; and he perfectioned his survivor’s skills. Early in 1945 he was back to Cracow, living in a basement with a gang of homeless kids. Then Soviet Army came.

Recently I was retelling this story to a friend who had known nothing about Polanski. When we came to this point there was such a sigh of relief from her that I realized I should have warned her there would be no relief, not ever. This is a never-ending story or trouble and tragedy.

Now, after the liberation, a single German aircraft passes in the sky over Cracow, manages to drop one single bomb, and of course Polanski happens to be nearby and gets wounded. It is a good epigraph for the rest of my story, Cracow being the second biggest city in Poland.

By that time he thought himself a Catholic, having been taught prayers in one of the families that sheltered him. He tried to fit in with the Catholics, and, to the disgrace of the confession I belong to, was rejected when they learned he was never baptized. An anti-Semitic priest said, “look at your nose”; interesting, isn’t it, to find one’s origins objectionable both under the occupation and after the liberation. He went to a Soviet school then - Poland was being modeled after the Soviet pattern – and became a Marxist like everyone else, only to be disappointed afterwards. After living with a succession of uncles (not the happiest time, either), Polanski is reunited with his father who survived the camp.

Father got remarried. The relationships between stepmother and stepson went from bad to worse. In interviews, Polanski blames himself only, another characteristic feature. Anyway, he escaped the family as soon as he could, namely at the age of 14. He was learning a lot all the time, attended a technical school, played in theater (there’s a famous picture from a Russian play, The Son of Regiment, for the leading part in which he won a prize at the festival in Warsaw) from a very early age; but in this article I will not follow his development as a genius, only his destiny.

One thing is relevant, however. He went to a technical school, and then to art school, and it is widely known that he is exceptionally gifted for both technics and arts. As if God was endeavoring to make a perfect moviemaker - and succeeded, of course.

Then another accident happens. A man hits young Polanski over the head with a brick several times, and leaves him for dead. Once again, Polanski survives, manages to get to the police and to give (with his skull fractured in a number of places) such a good description that the police arrests the assailant, who proved to already have killed a few young men in a similar fashion.

My story doesn’t sound probable at this point. If we didn’t know all that actually happened, we would think all that too much for one man. In literature or film, such conglomeration of disasters wouldn’t have been deemed realistic. But we all know there’s more ahead.

Then, mercifully, some respite: Łódź film school, a cradle of many a talent. First short movies, first marriage (ending in divorce), first possibility to go abroad. To France, the land of his dream.

He made a short film there, Le Gros et le Maigre (The Fat and the Lean). One of his previous shorts,  Two Men and a Wardrobe, had already won some international awards. Both are fantastic, but the important part for us is that in both he developed his main theme: victims and all aspects of their existence. In Le Gros et le Maigre he plays Le Maigre (the lean), subjected to all kinds of humiliating trials, chained to a goat. It leaves the watcher with a very uneasy recollection of an iron chain against a bare ankle and of the deeply unsettling denouement of the story.

Why didn’t he just stay in France? All he dreamed of was to escape the drab reality of “socialism”, a country where talent could never be free. It was so difficult to travel for people of the communist countries, now that he was allowed to get through that little hole in the Iron Curtain, why didn’t he just stay? It’s the same story again. He escapes; he comes back.

He came back to Poland to make his first feature-length film, Knife in the Water. The main theme of the movie is the same as in the shorts. A masterpiece, of course; what else did we expect? Nominated for Oscar as the best foreign film of the year – no, it didn’t win, but it lost to Fellini’s 8 ½, which is by no means a disgraceful defeat. A photo from the film appears on the cover of Time magazine. A wonderful, unprecedented start for an obscure Polish debutant; and an honor for his country, would we think?

No. The Polish Communist authorities and their leader Władysław Gomułka declared it a shame for Poland. Polanski was refused all further financing and recommended to engage in some useful work, preferably manual labor.

Barring a miracle, his destiny was easy to predict. Iron curtain; attempts to find job; attempts to defect to the West (he had actually undertaken a few, quite crazy I’ll tell you, like constructing a submarine and nearly drowning while testing it); arrest; prison. But the miracle did happen: he was invited to make a part of a four-part movie (Les Plus Belles Escroqueries du Monde), and it happened exactly at the right time – only a couple years later the regime would grow so rigid again that the mousetrap could close forever. But these were the times of the after-Stalinist “thaw” (a quasi-official term in Soviet historiography), so he was told to hit the road, Jack.

Another sigh of relief… Oh wait, I forgot: at the beginning of the 60s he suffered another serious injury, in a car accident. But this is so insignificant among the rest; one can easily forget.

I look at other directors’ Wikipedia articles and can’t help marveling at how short their “biography” parts are. Born – studied – worked. If someone happens to play a musical instrument, it is given a considerable amount of attention. A car accident would be worthy of a whole paragraph, if not a sub-section.

Polanski plays a shit ton of instruments, by the way.

Now Europe, and the classic Repulsion, and one of his tops, Cul-de-Sac (although all of his movies are tops, come to think of it), and Dance of the Vampires that lately has finally acquired some appreciation, although not one tenth of what it deserves; work and friends and a totally new life and what looks like freedom. A happy marriage and an invitation to Hollywood, where he yet another time beats everyone on their own field, making Rosemary’s Baby, an undisputable evergreen classic. Looks like life can be normal for him, after all, with all the tragedies left behind.

Certainly it was a happy time. For all of us. Roman was happy, he was with beautiful Sharon. Everyone loved her. He loved her, I loved her, we all loved her.” (Mia Farrow). It seems true, about “everyone”. She is said to be sweet, intelligent, talented; above all, kind. "In the six years that I knew her, she never said an unkind word about anyone." (Sheila Wells, a friend).

One hoped for Roman, you know, that this brand-new life with a woman who loved him and who seemed so right for him, with the baby – that there would be this security that he hadn’t had in his life. And in a new homeland. I mean, the future was his. We thought. Then everything just collapsed.” (Mia Farrow)

The 60's abruptly ended on August 9, 1969, the date of the murders on Cielo Drive.” (Joan Didion, The White Album, a collection of essays on life in the 60s).

Headlines of the period: “Ritual Murder”. “Film Star Dies in Ritual Massacre”. Why, of course, isn’t it clear, and so irresistibly exciting – husband makes a Satanist movie, and wife dies in a Satanist murder. The only problem is that neither was Satanist. I’ll analyze the movie later in this section of my blog, and I’d rather not go into the murderers’ reasons unless someone asks: I would no more analyze the motifs and psychology of Charles Manson than I would those of a cockroach.

Anyway, they killed her, and other people with her (and, later, other people elsewhere),  and there was that phone call to London, and Andrew Braunsberg, producer and good friend, who had come to discuss a new movie that would never be made (would, actually, in 1971 - with Mike Nichols as the director), would say many years later, “I have never seen anything like it, you know, I saw somebody just disintegrate in front of my eyes.”

And then the real witches’ Sabbath started, in media. The initial of-course-he-killed-her-who-else and of-course-it-was-all-drug-dealing-what-else nonsense soon more or less died out, unfed; but something else remained, like, forever; at that time it was immortalized in headlines like “Those Sharon Tate Orgies” or "Live Freaky, Die Freaky".

On August 19, Polanski mistakenly decided he was strong enough to face the media and try to protect his wife’s good name. It was a pathetic attempt. Only recently first after God on the set of Rosemary’s Baby, now it was a scared miserable kid whose mother had been just taken to Auschwitz, all over again.

You are suddenly curious about my relationship with Sharon within last few months. I can tell you that last few months as much as last few years I spent with her were [the] only time of true happiness in my life.” Words stick in the throat, he spits them out, eyes blind, accent heavier than ever before. “All of you know how beautiful she was. […]Very often I’ve read and heard statement that she was one of most beautiful if not the most beautiful woman of the world. But only few of you know how good she was.”

This word “good” almost made me cry for its incongruity, impropriety in the face of all those jackals, but the worst is yet to come: “And facts which will be coming out, day after day, will make ashame[d] a lot of newsmen, who for a selfish reason write unbearable for me, horrible things about my wife.”

“Ashamed”. Oh good Lord. I would say it was by that speech that he perpetuated the image of himself as a perfect target. It’s hard not to throw a knife at someone who paints a bull’s eye on his chest.

Which reminds me… there’s that scene in The Tenant when Trelkovsky drinks with that poor chap who loved Simone and has just learned about her death; a group of robust men enter the bar and their leader yells: “Drinks for everyone!.. Everyone except him!” – and points at the chap. That’s how the world chooses its prey, unmistakably.

The “selfish reason” isn’t only lucrative, it has all those old aspects. Of course it is a pleasure to write something it will be a pleasure for a reader to read; but more important, sensationalism is akin to any other branch of sadism: it can’t be sated; and a wonderful, savory news of five bloody murders can’t be replaced by something as bland as compassion, either for the dead or for the living.

It is hard to find it in oneself to sympathize when the magnitude of disaster is overwhelming. Compassion means identifying with the sufferer, and people have the instinct of self-preservation. Polanski has always been too much: some have difficult childhood – he has Holocaust; some get injured – he gets his skill fractured with a brick; some lose their near and dear ones – his go down in one of the most notorious crimes of the century. Everything to excess. I know many to idly wonder if a person can go through all this and remain sane. Or human. That is why, even before the murders, when his relationships with the media were quite peaceful, he so emphatically downplayed all his dramas. Asked about Holocaust, he invariably tries to get it through to us that a child “accepts life as it is”, he doesn’t know any other reality and lives with what he has; that nothing outstanding was happening; that everyone could have gotten killed a number of times, for example, with a flower pot falling on their head. In David Lynch’s Elephant Man the main character screams, “I am not a monster, I am a man!

He did survive, once again, although his friends’ accounts show these were hard two years.

Now, before we go on to the next twist of fate, let’s pause to consider some preliminary results.

I’ve made some important points in my review of The Tenant, but here’s more.

A friend of mine, a professional psychologist specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared a trauma (we’re talking about traumas here, not every-day troubles) with a nail hammered into one’s flesh. You can’t remove the nail, but you can learn to live with it. If everything goes well, the nail gets capsulated; it never stops to occasionally bother you or reflect on your [sub]consciousness, but it doesn’t hurt all the time. Thus, if we take one isolated trauma, say, getting one’s skull fractured by a maniac – it can be capsulated. If nothing else had happened in his life, Polanski would have come to terms with this, having an occasional nightmare, probably developing an aversion to some things (bricks?); time to time, a smell or a sound would have revived the painful memories, but that would be it.

If, however, there are multiple traumas, - my friend went on, - it’s like new nails driven at exactly the same place where the old ones sit. It revives the old pain, and gives new, in geometric progression. Now, if those nails were hammered in for years – all big and rusty – and after a respite, again – and again – there’s no hope for healing.

And there’s more. The maniac with a brick is one thing, but losing the ones you love is another. Mother, first; and everyone else who was there. Then, wife and kid (who should have been born only a couple of weeks later), and everyone else who was there. In this situation, the survivor develops survivor’s guilt, irrational and self-destructive. “I don’t know how he lives,” - my friend concluded. – “Must be like someone with most of his skin burned off.”

Journalists have always been very eager to ask Polanski what his feelings are. Pray to the Lord you’ll never know.

But he does survive. He never complains, he never blames anyone, he never poses as a victim in a crown of thorns, and makes it a point never to inspire pity. Everyone who knows him personally invariably say he is optimistic, very sane, very strong, with a great sense of humor.

What do we have, then? A born survivor, a man with enormous ability of resistance – and a sequence of disasters, one on top of another. As if God was experimenting (crippling, but not killing: every time it’s like another inch of a straw bridge over the precipice appears from nowhere): if there is an unbreakable man, can he ever be broken? If he is given everything – talent, intelligence, wits, charisma, - and then subjected to all kinds of pressure, will he still stand?

Yes, he will.

All right, the last drop, then.

Now, let him be arrested and declared child rapist.

I beg my reader to stop reading in this place if you haven’t yet looked at my arguments here, or disagree with them: the rest of what I have to say would sound meaningless to you, and you shouldn’t waste your time.

Between the 1969 murders and the 1977 arrest, Polanski made four movies, all of which are prophetic.

In The Tragedy of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is a very young girl who can’t really understand what she is doing.
What? is a comedy, whose main topic is the impossibility to reach any kind of understanding.
Chinatown is about the non-existence of justice [in Los Angeles].
The Tenant is about a group meticulously persecuting one man for no reason.

 All of the above found its reflection in the later events. (With people who are not God’s painted birds, it’s usually the other way round.)

He is arrested, and the circus starts. We already know a lot about it so let me draw your attention to only a few things.

He has to make his plea on the anniversary of Sharon’s death. Whose cruel joke? The transcript would make Kafka hang his head in shame. [I’ll elaborate on this part later]

After this, he is allowed to travel outside the United States. He goes away, and he comes back as soon as the judges demands that he do.

Again. Like he hadn’t had enough by that time. Like it was, yet again, something he had to drink down to the dregs.

And he comes back, and he goes to Chino prison, and he maintains his sanity there against all odds. Again.

Remember what I told you about PTDS? Now on top of all he has the privilege of staying alone in his cell, pondering on how he suddenly is a child rapist in the eyes of the public, how his career and all his life is ruined, how many of his friends betrayed him… but it’s only the new nails. All the old ones are always there, and there are nice finishing touches to the picture: his window gives on barbed wire, and in the same prison (mercifully, in a different wing) – who do you think – Manson and another member of his “family” are kept. A lesser man would crawl under the cot, assume embryo position and give up on his sanity. Polanski volunteers for cleaning duty, although he is never really safe outside the safety of the cell.

Inmate Polanski has been under my supervision and has made the adjustment to prison life in a very efficient manner. <…> Inmate Polanski has volunteered for dormitory maintenance and does a fast and efficient job. Inmate Polanski is an organizer and a leader and has not used his social status as a lever or crutch and gets along well with both staff and inmates. (a prison guard report)

Right. Again, never complaining; never blaming anyone; fulfilling all his obligations. And then he is out, unbroken if not unscathed, and another circle of hell is behind him, and it seems there’s hope – but we already know that there is none. It’s only when he finds this out that he flees.


Trying to express how shocked he was by the charges, he writes, among other things, “I couldn’t come to terms with it; nothing in my life had prepared me for the idea that I might be a criminal”. Very true. All of his life he has been a victim; but nothing actually changed. A victim of a false rape cry; a victim – as I firmly believe – of a setup; a victim of media; a victim of corrupt justice. Everything fits the picture. But the turn the events took makes me wonder.

Supposing there was a God’s plan for Polanski. Before 1977 it looked, among the things already mentioned, like he may have been put through all that in order for his films to obtain this particular authenticity that distinguishes them from the films of any other directors I know. Whatever happens on the screen, the watcher always has this uneasy feeling that it is all true – because it is. Polanski says his experience is never reflected in his films (except The Pianist), but it is, whether he wants it or not; after all, he said himself that the camera is an X-ray of the director’s soul. His experience may not be reflected directly, but it is always there. That is why his movies are so horribly alive, and so hard to watch.

So, all these tortures were needed to mould one outstanding director? God moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform, and however unsettling, this may very well be true.

Or may have been true, before March 1977.

Then, this twist of fate is like a twist of knife in the wound. And it miraculously changes everything and gives Polanski’s fate a whole new dimension.

All those dramas were to make one genius director, right? Who could make some outstanding, incomparable films, right? And now what if his name is  forever smeared, with the most loathsome of all possible accusations, if he becomes synonymous to everything that is despicable and ignoble? If people refuse to watch his films from now on, rejecting them as something filthy, made by a pervert? If this genius director is from now on to be treated worse than a mad dog, subjected to public stoning and spitting, and nobody cares a damn what movies he ever made? If everything had been in vain?

Eh? How are you going to dance with this chain around your ankle?

No money, no work (“they dropped all my films as a hot potato”, he says in an interview and this syntax mistake shows that he is not really as cool about it as he – always, lest someone take pity! – wants to appear). Reputation? Social position? Prospects? No, his colleagues in France never believed the preposterous accusation, but you know… excessive again. Everybody gets involved in sex scandals, but the scale! And nobody washes floors in prisons. It is not done.

And even with all this he proves strong enough to get up and rebuild his life.

When I watch documental video records of this period (mainly from French television), I feel like a parent who sighs to himself: “Everybody has normal children…” Indeed – everybody else is wearing suits and ties, everybody’s hair is decently cut, nobody fidgets, nobody bites their nails, nobody laces their sneakers (nobody ever wears sneakers, for God’s sake!), nobody picks things from under the table… It’s like he is constantly declaring: you will stare at me anyway, so I’ll give you a reason for this. Like the “unspeakable” Madam Gaderian from The Tenant, who “does her washing-up in the middle of night and whistles at the same time”.

The same psychologist told me that people who are so traumatized – multiply, repeatedly, and hard – have actually only four possible ways of behavior. The first is suicide (see suicide rate among survivors). The second is curling up in embryo position and sliding into insanity. The third is to deny everything, to block it out; resulting also in insanity. The fourth should be to accept what happened and learn to live with it like all “normal” people, but it is hardly possible; all that remains is excessive behavior, provocation, defiance. Indeed, what else is left when on top of everything you are put in the pillory for the rest of your life? He seemed to have found his niche, if the position in the middle of the square can be called so: instead of remaining an outcast, he managed to become l’enfant terrible of Europe. And he whistled at the same time.

Then he married a wonderful woman, and they gave birth to wonderful children. He even gave up (well, to an extent) this inclination to shock – épater - and became an exemplary husband and father. He made The Pianist, which is an exploit for someone who’d lived through the Holocaust, and would have been flatly impossible for someone who hadn’t.

Sigh of relief?

And then all hell broke loose, and there’s no end to it.

Back to my own story… I was reading all this in the beginning of July, in no chronological order, putting this jigsaw puzzle of separate documents together as best as I could. The summer was extraordinarily hot, I thought I was losing my mind.

I had before me this medical document that said no traces of forcible, or any other, entry were found, and parallel to it – the “brutal rape” and “worst rapist ever” ravings. I had Geimer’s testimony about her previous sexual experience, and parallel to it – the “child molester” incantations. Her testifying to walking and swimming – and Reisman’s demented drivel about the semi-conscious dying girl. And so on. It wasn’t till much later that I came across any sane comments and found the blogs and posts that reassured me: no, it’s not me, it’s the world that went mad – and, thankfully, not all of it.

But then, in July, - might have been coincidence – I was against the whole world with the documents that didn’t seem to matter anything to anyone. It was like I slipped in some different dimension.

Then I discovered something else. I had known that Polanski was under house arrest, but most media referred to the electronic device as a “bracelet”, so I assumed it was worn around the wrist. Now I learned that it was, in fact, an anklet.

That was the last finishing touch that completed the picture for me.

Everything goes in circles in this story. The circles Polanski makes himself, going back to where he should run away from. The circles his fate makes: barbed wire around the ghetto; barbed wire around Chino, barbed wire around Zurich remand prison. Mother killed; wife and son killed. The wall separating the ghetto from the rest of Cracow; the iron curtain separating Communist countries from the rest of the world; the iron curtain that doesn’t allow him to go outside France. Laurence Rittenband, Lawrence Silver, and Stephen Lawrence Cooley. Plea made on the anniversary of Sharon’s death. Manson kept in Chino prison. And now this.

The anklet completed the circle started with Le Gros et le Maigre, Polanski trying to dance with that goat chained to his ankle.

It was then that all the pieces of the picture fell together, and I got really shaken. I had… well, I open myself to all kinds of sarcasm, but I am ready to run this risk. Let me call it a vision. I suddenly realized that if there was a God’s plan, then that’s what would be in the end: Polanski extradited, brought to the USA, put to prison, and –

And the last he saw in his life would be the barbed wire.

Then I started praying to St.Anthony. I wasn’t very coherent, weather, overstrain and all. I was saying, “Look, it’s an elegant plan. Very beautiful. Perfect. But you know what? Don’t do this. Just, you know, don’t. Let him be. I concede I may be mistaken about him, right? Then, you know, if he is not a man I think he is, I will be really very sad, but I’ll understand, what should be done should be done… but if he is what I think he is, the greatest man alive, noble and, above all, good, and innocent of these idiotic charges – please, don’t do this. Let him go free. Please.”

Yes, I know how it all sounds, and frankly, I don’t give a damn. I’m telling you a true story, and won’t omit anything for the sake of credibility, or to look better.

I finished my prayer and immediately fell asleep. I swear I had no idea when the Swiss were planning to make their final decision. Next morning I woke up to find they did. Polanski was free.

Thank you, St.Anthony.

Thank you, all the people who did not join the lynch mob.

Thank you, all the people who are courageous enough to defend the outstanding, brilliant, slandered man.

Thank you, who have read this till the end.

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
 And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
 And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
 Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!" -


Anonymous said...

You've mentioned about how Polanski always flees, and then returns.

Well, the reason why Polanski didn't "return" to the United States last year is because it did NOT properly fit the pattern of his previous flights-and-returns. Meaning, because he was NOT returning of his own free will, he could not "return". Extradition, you see, does not fit the pattern. It has to be by his own free will. That's the pattern.

I firmly believe that he will eventually return to the United States. But it will be of his own free will. Even if it means more prison-time for him, he will still have to come back willingly.

Anonymous said...

By the way, you say you're working on a screenplay? What's it about? Is it a work of fiction?

Jean said...

I think the only reason for him to ever come back would be to visit Sharon's grave.

It's not that he always comes back - it's that he seems to come back once, take the last chance, and only then finally flee, when there's no more hope. I am afraid the USA have exhausted their potential, hope-wise.

I don't know if the two Anonymous commenters are the same; anyway - my screenplay is for a feature movie, it's a comedy... well, kind of. Thank you for asking.

And many thanks for commenting!

Patrick said...

Wow. You are absolutely right, Jean. If all those hardships were heaped on a character in a movie, no one would believe it. No one should have that much tragedy woven throughout their life.

Jean said...

Thank you Patrick. Mr.Polanski said in the latest interview, "I am probably made of a harder material than most people"... and added, with a rather bitter smile, "on pourrait faire des clous avec moi" (I could be used for making nails). You see now why I am rather touchy on the subject: it should seem that enough is enough, but people's hatred can never be sated, they are like sharks who smell blood.

DoctorDodge said...

Wow. Amazing blog, Jean. Not only describing Polanski's life, but also knowing how to tell it well, extremely well. Great stuff.

And considering how much I laughed in all the right places (I hope) in this blog, reading that you're writing a screenplay for a "kind of" comedy interests me greatly! Looking forward to reading more of your blog, Jean!

Jean said...

Thank you DD! Your praise really really means a lot to me.

I hope you will enjoy the rest of the blog, too - it involves exactly the kind of black humor you tend to appreciate: the story that forms the core of my research is an embodiment of macabre comedy at its worst.

stkmw02 said...

I find it interesting that you attribute Polanski's greatness and despair to the plans of God... to fate and destiny. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. In researching and reporting on the life, works, and controversies of Polanski you have found your own greatness and despair. You have taken on a great task to share this information with others and must feel that injustice in your own heart to devote yourself as you do. It is a truly commendable effort and, although I am only one person, it has enlightened me.

I hope to learn more of your screenplay as well.

Jean said...

Thank you stkmw02! Yes, the injustice keeps burning my heart, it's true; and if my research helped "only one person" (but who else does mankind consist of?) to know the truth, it's all I was hoping for. Thank God, the number of such person - who won't keep their eyes deliberately shut when shown plain facts and documents - steadily grows.

Thank you!

Patrick said...

"...In researching and reporting on the life, works, and controversies of Polanski you have found your own greatness and despair. You have taken on a great task to share this information with others and must feel that injustice in your own heart to devote yourself as you do. It is a truly commendable effort and, although I am only one person, it has enlightened me."

stkmw02 said it perfectly, Jean.

Jean said...

Thank you again, guys - it makes me very happy to read such comments as these - but the most important part in all the praise is the last: "it has enlightened me".

Often as I feel like a voice crying in the wilderness, such responses make it all worthwile.

Thank you.

John A. A. Logan said...

I've referenced and posted the link to your superb essay in the comments section under my blog post there for Authors Electric (which refers to Polanki's The Tenant).
Thank-you for writing this extraordinary piece.
All best,

solange said...

Thank you for the beautiful insight into Roman's life. I was only 16 when I read of Sharon's ungodly murder and have always been haunted by it. This week I have looked at many photos of her and could see (so clearly) what a decent, beautiful, kind and truly unique person she was. I saw through video footage how Roman collapsed into his mother-in-law's arms at Sharon's funeral. It is so obvious what the truth was about Roman and Sharon; if only people had the soul and eyes to truly see. I admire and respect Mr. Polanski immensely and wish the very best for him.

Jean said...

Thank you Solange! It's so important to know that people love and respect Roman, especially now that a new slanderous campaign is in full swing. If you want to help me, please share the link to my research, so more people can know the truth; and/or contact me on Facebook (Jean Melkovsky).