The Officer And The Spy: The Story of Justice and Willingness in French Cinematography

The Officer and the Spy seem to be a fighter for anti-bureaucracy, claiming that today’s society partly has not changed. Roman Polanski is not of those directors who used to obey social prejudices. Once directed the film in his 13, his filmography fulfilled with pushing genres, by far became the landmark for a contemporary onscreen art.

One of his prominent historical dramas, The Officer and the Spy, took Roman Polanski to another circle of fame circle condemning and delightful tones. Showing the story of unfairly accused officer Dreyfus, Polanski discovered the topic he crossed in different ways.

Emile Zola
Emile Zola

The original title for the drama borrowed from Emile Zola article J`accuse. Thus, it was predicted to be a historical basement, moreover, Emile Zola, played by André Marcon, appeared as a prominent unmasker of a government affair.

One of the profound ideas belongs to the separated society, whereas one-part supports Dreyfus, another one, not. Those, who claimed the justice investigation, and those who always see in him a betrayer, caused the Jewish original.



The major of French artillery, Alfred Dreyfus was accused falsely in the national treachery to Germany. It took not so much time to reveal him as the only possible dissident considering he was from a Jewish race.

Anti-Semitism is one of the main subjects of the plot. Subsequently, General Picquart (Jean Dujardin) starts investigating the roots of the affair. Thus, Picquart put his name forward against the rotten government layer.

Roman Polanski / Photo: Shutterstock Denis Makarenko
Roman Polanski / Photo: Shutterstock Denis Makarenko

The perspectives shifts from Dreyfus to the position of Picquart, with Polanski exploring the dark world of French mala-dministration. While the news formed a social opinion, impacting the masss, Colonel Sander was struggling with tertiary syphilis, dying of painful ulcers.

After Picquart was appointed to the post of investigative office, he goes to a complicated, but dissolute place with people, who were no longer eager for French patriotism. Bureaucracy and no ordered staff, whereas Picquart got to know the suspicions against Dreyfus were untrue.

Historically, the case of Dreyfus was a loud process in Europe of the 19th Century. It forced the society to divide into two camps – for and against Dreyfus. This event reaches the majority of the world’s courts. However, none of the directors released the history, until Polanski premiered it in Venice. Until it was mentioned in society, the dozens articles and surveys had been yet published before. From Emile Zola to contemporary retrospectives.


The Dreyfus Affair

Even though Dreyfus pretend to be a protagonist, Picquart set the spin character, changing the Dreyfus role to episodic. In the plot of an investigative thriller, Picquart pulls the strings and goes ahead to the significant ministers, revealing the dark facts of authorities. Officials, for their part, deprive him of justice.

Roman Polanski spent several years preparing for the film based on the notorious political scandals of the 19th century – The Dreyfus Affair – together with the writer Robert Harris. However, the latter, starting work on the script, wrote a whole book about Georges Picquart and the social situation around the innocent convict.

For Polanski, who barely survived in the Kraków ghetto during the Nazi occupation, the plot of The Officer and the Spy is essential and close. He puts the historical plot in a completely new context. It was quite expressive and he still received the Jury Prize for this film.

Photos: Shutterstock / Photomontage: Martina Advaney

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