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Intrige (An Officer and a Spy, J'accuse)
France/Italy 2019

Opening 6 Feb 2020

Directed by: Roman Polanski
Writing credits: Robert Harris, Roman Polanski
Principal actors: Jean Dujardin, Louis Garrel, Emmanuelle Seigner, Grégory Gadebois

Roman Polanski presents a film, which is well described under its three main titles (see above). It is based on the true story of the Dreyfus Affair, which Robert Harris describes in his book An Officer and a Spy, and repeats in the film. In January 1895 a young French, Jewish military officer, Alfred Dreyfus (Louis Garrel) was sentenced in a Paris court of high treason and sent to five years of prison at Devil’s Island, off the Atlantic coast of South America. Supposedly, he shared secret military secrets with the Germans. From the beginning Colonel George Picquart (Jean Dujardin) suspected a mistrial and began collecting information and analyzing the facts. Picquart talks to people, reads letters, compares handwriting, and finds a secret file in a safe. There are flashbacks to former events, connecting to the present. All guilt points to another military officer, Ferdinand Esterhazy (Laurent Natrella). Thus, halfway into a 132-minute film, we accept that Dryfus is innocent, but how to prove it. In France, many lean towards antisemitism, including the press. If there is a guilty soldier, better that he is Jewish. Naturally, the military must protect its reputation and insists that it has acted correctly and refuses to even consider having made a mistake. There cannot be a public scandal. There is a second trial and Dreyfus is sentenced again, this time for ten years.  Picquart himself becomes an outcast and told to “be quiet and take it to your grave.” 

Naturally, all details about the Dreyfus Affair, France’s worst political scandal are available online, all worth reading to sort the facts. The film is important because it effectively shows the emotions, misgivings, relapses and interactions between the innocent and the guilty and everyone in between and never seems to carry on too long. See the film, not only be become familiar with important historical events, but to see excellent actors. This won the Grand Jury Prize for best film at the 2019 Venice Film Festival. (Becky Tan)

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