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An Officer And A Spy, A Defeat Of Intention For Polanski

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

By: Nozhat Baadi


Early in An Officer and a Spy, Alfred Dreyfus, who is a student of Colonel Georges Picquart, confronts him and asks him if he had gotten a low score because he’s Jewish. Colonel Picquart answers with honesty and says that although he does not like Dreyfus and Jews, but he would never turn his back to fairness and justice. It is as if the whole film is Colonel Picquard’s attempt to prove that he chooses truth over personal feelings and opinions, and Dreyfus’ case turns into Colonel Picquart’s re-examination of his own personal ideals and beliefs. After realizing that Dreyfus is innocent, he sees himself caught between choosing truth or expediency, and in the personal moral choice that he has to make, he reaches a new understanding, and a new definition, of loyalty and disloyalty, and finds himself being more obligated to serve humanity rather than his faithfulness to his duties in the military.


Therefore, the emphasis in the film is not only put on injustice happening in one case, but also on a kind of injustice which seems to be just as some people might be more equal before the law, and shows how justice can be relative to human beings, . Through his courtroom drama, Polanski drags humanity into an startling case of mimesis to question human beings’ conscious and to show them how many times men have turned a blind eye to confessing to the truth and justice simply because of discriminations and racial, sexual, national, and ethnical inequalities. Therefore, the brilliant pamphlet by Émile Zola, titled “I Accuse”, is not simply a letter to the government and the French army who punished an innocent officer in the late 19th century, but its echoes can be heard from the beginning of creation to our present time where the feelings of doubt and uncertainty exist toward all judgments and verdicts in history, and the film invites us to reconsider them and to try to find the truth(s) in our buried, forgotten past.

From this aspect, the film has an ambivalent double function towards its filmmaker: On the one hand, it works as an answer to habilitate Polanski, who seems to have always been the centre of accusations, allegations and humiliation as a Jew, and has never been free of this shadow of doubt which has been cast over him. On the other hand, it turns into an appeal against him and puts him in the place of a famous director who has always avoided answering his allegations, and has made films freely, and has been praised globally, and has received numerous awards. Therefore, for me, the film defeats the purpose on behalf of its filmmaker, and although it is a precise study of an historical injustice, and exposes the truth from the midst of concealment and cover-ups, but when it is supposed to be taken as a reference to the filmmaker himself, he wants everybody to forget about the things he had done in the past, and expects the audience to stay silent, and not seek justice

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