The Polanski Matter

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not those of The Hysteria Collective as a whole.

“You have to separate the man from the artist”, lots of people are repeating over and over again, some of them even defending feminist values, which is quite sickening.

This article will be a bit shorter than usual and unapologetically categorical.

In my film school, we are thirty-five freshers and our opinions diverge on the Polanski matter. As for mine, I’ll eagerly keep to defend it, because it all comes back to an article I wrote this summer for this magazine: Representation: The Buzz Word That Does Matter’. In it, I talked about the artist’s responsibility.

However, responsibility doesn’t belong to the artist only. Too easy, dear reader. Too easy. You, reading this article, are responsible too. And it isn’t pleasant to be responsible, right? It’s so much more comfortable to close your eyes and keep on living the way you always did.

Roman Polanski, a famous director and writer, is a rapist. He is a rapist and a child abuser. To summarise it: he destroyed lives. Entire, bloody, lives. He committed irreparable crimes, yet a few weeks ago, I was at the movies to watch Papicha when a trailer came on screen. J’accuse, by Roman Polanski. With one, if not the most, famous French actor, Jean Dujardin, and many others. The title itself made me sick. J’accuse, meaning, I accuse, I denounce. From the man who destroyed lives.

J’accuse.

It haunted me during the first minutes of Papicha – but disappeared then, because this film is, by the way, a masterpiece.

Roman Polanski, a famous director and writer, is a criminal. Yet, he keeps flourishing in the film industry. He still has the rights to carry on with his passion, the rights to keep on living the way he always did, when he stole from others a considerable part of their existence. When he broke them to pieces.

We all know what happened to Polanski, the Manson family murdering his young pregnant wife and friends – if you don’t know about this tragic event, just Google it, or have a romanticised, reconstructed and interesting made-up version of it in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Also, this doesn’t excuse Polanski for what he committed later. Moreover, as a filmmaking student myself, I won’t deny Roman Polanski’s talent. Although I won’t defend it. I won’t acclaim it. And I won’t, ever, ever, pay for one of his films.

Because this, and I affirm it with no shame, is being an accomplice to his crimes. It’s closing your eyes. If you give him money, you give money to a rapist and a child abuser. Repeat after me.

If you would cross the path of such a man in the street, would you give him some money to keep on supporting his activity, if he wasn’t an artist? Well, no. We give way too many credits to artists, those mystified beings, way too many credits to politicians, those made-up characters, and so on. This has to stop.

If you like Polanski’s films, good for you. But for humanity’s sake, don’t pay for it. Wait a few weeks to find an illegal streaming link. I know it’s a hard to swallow pill. I know it may be unpleasant to think that you are guilty too when you’re in the queue impatiently waiting to sit comfortably in the red and comfy synthetic sits to chew popcorn that you’ll swallow mouth open with the taste of a new well build-up story.

Some could say: “yeah, but what about if the sound engineer of X film, or the director of photography from X film are abusers too and we ignore it? With what you’re saying, no one should go to the movies ever again!” This is an easy thought. Very, very easy thought. Nor I nor you are behind the curtains, and in every profession, every institution, every group, there are a hundred of things that can’t be known or aren’t yet.

But gosh, when you know it, don’t ignore it.

“And what about the rest of the film’s crew, hm? This isn’t their fault!”

Well, they chose to work with Polanski, right? Also, if you accept a film contract with such a director, which could be understandable for a career, do something good with the money you gain from it, like Timothée Chalamet. He’s the lead actor of Woody Allen’s last piece, but he took all his money from it to give it to charities. Actually quite smart.

To summarise it, we are all responsible. The consequences echo. From the abuser, to the staff, to the sound engineer, to Timothée Chalamet, to you. (If Eva Green herself refused to work with Polanski, you can at least, at your tiny scale, have a bit of decency yourself.)

If you sister, your mother, your cousin, your best mate, your neighbour had been abused by a director, would you go and pay for his or her film? Or say: “separate the man from the artiiiiist”. Duh.

I’ll finish this opinion article by this:

Roman Polanski’s victims, I believe you.

We are thousands out there that will keep on fighting for what is right. 2017 dramatically changed the film industry, with the Harvey Weinstein case and the #MeToo movement. That was a turning point I’ll remember forever and that resonated through me and through millions of people.

J’accuse Roman Polanski. Unapologetically.

And I’ll chew some ridiculously expensive popcorn in a room screening another film than J’accuse.

Maëlle Leggiadro

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