The Polish director was convicted in the United States in 1978 of illegal sexual acts with a 13-year-old girl and fled the country shortly afterwards. Since then he has been controversial, especially as more allegations of abuse have been made against him in recent years. The main difference with the Dreyfus affair is that Polanski – certainly in the first case – was indeed guilty and has admitted that. The fact that he dared to underline the parallels between himself and Dreyfus in a rare interview therefore feels rather inappropriate.
Court-martialed in “Jaccuse.”
Back to the movie. It derives its title from the pamphlet published by Emile Zola Your battery …! from 1898, in which this famous writer publicly held those responsible for the Dreyfus affair accountable. Polanski’s Your battery picks up the story much earlier: when the officer in question (Louis Garrel) is stripped of his insignia with a lot of power, while undergoing this humiliation as much as possible with his head held high.
The director then shifts the perspective to Colonel Georges Picquart (Jean Dujardin), who, as the newly appointed intelligence chief, discovers that the whole Dreyfus affair stinks. However, his attempts to uncover the truth face much internal opposition and political pressure, even if he seems to track down the real culprit. Yet he perseveres in this fascinating historical reconstruction, for which Robert Harris (Munich, Enigma) wrote the screenplay together with Roman Polanski.
Colonel Picquart (Jean Dujardin) follows his moral compass in Jaccuse.
The result is a well-acted and attractively portrayed story about a judicial error and the designation of a scapegoat for political gain. And about the courage of someone who dares to be guided by his moral compass. Polanski’s direction sometimes feels somewhat distant. It is even more difficult that his film is difficult to separate from the quoted context. Whoever tries to do that, however, will be treated to a very expertly made drama about shocking injustice and the fight against it.