The ghost of a misdemeanor, committed by the master filmmaker
, about 37 years ago continues to haunt him. Poland has just received a formal request from the US for the director's extradition.
Born to Polish parents in 1933, Polanski -who also holds a French passport - was accused of a raping a 13-year-old girl, Samantha Geimer, in 1977 after a photo shoot in the US. Polanski pleaded guilty of unlawful sex with a minor, but ran away from the US fearing a long jail term.
America's attempts to get the helmer back have been in vain all these years. The latest effort was a few months ago, when Polanski went to Warsaw to open a Jewish museum. The Polish authorities questioned him, but allowed him to go.
Earlier in 2009,
was arrested and detained in Switzerland for several months on a request from the US. But here too he was let off by the Swiss police.
He used this time when he was under house arrest to script The Ghost Writer - loosely based on former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The thriller, adapted from a novel by British writer Robert Harris, had former 007 Pierce Brosnan playing an ex-UK Prime Minister Adam Lang, and Ewan McGregor as the ghost writer penning the memoirs of the VIP.
The Ghost Writer premiered at Berlin in 2010 where it won the Silver Bear for Best Direction (Polanski). In the US, movie critic Roger Ebert included it in his top 10 pick for 2010, and wrote: "this film is the work of a man who knows how to direct a thriller. Smooth, calm, confident, it builds suspense instead of depending on shock and action." McGregor agreed, saying that Polanski "is a legend... I've never examined a director and the way that they work, so much before. He's brilliant, just brilliant, and absolutely warrants his reputation as a great director".
Despite his brilliance, Polanski lives a life of uncertainty. Even fear, a fear that must have bothered him ever since that fateful day in August 1969 when his young and pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered in their Los Angeles home by largely female followers of Charles Manson, an American criminal and musician.
And the rape case goes on, despite Geimer's public pardon of Polanski after his profound apology.
Despite such troubled life, Polanski has made some brilliant cinema: Rosemary's Baby (about a woman impregnated by the Devil), The Pianist (on the nightmarish experiences of a Polish-Jewish pianist during World War II), Chinatown (a crime drama nominated for 11 Oscars, but which got only one for Best Original Screenplay), and Carnage (a subtly witty take on two couples quarrelling after their children get into a fight at school).
Polanski is now working on D, a movie about the notorious Dreyfus affair in the 19th century in which a few Jewish members of the French Army's general staff were falsely accused of passing on military secrets to the German Empire. They were banished to the Devil's Island, but mercifully acquitted after 12 years.
Sadly, India has hardly seen much of Polanski's cinema.