It’s a double gong for Polański at Venice Film Festival
Roman Polański’s ‘An Officer and a Spy’ has won the coveted Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize at the International Film Festival in Venice.
The film also took the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) prize as well as receiving a standing ovation from viewers at the awards ceremony on Saturday.
Based on a novel by Robert Harris of the same name, An Officer and a Spy tells the real-life story of French Army Captain Alfred Dreyfus, wrongly accused of passing on secrets to the German Embassy in Paris.
He was convicted of treason in 1894 and exiled to Devil's Island in French Guiana, where he spent five years in prison.
In 1896, evidence came to light implicating the true culprit, one Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy, who was acquitted following the intervention of high-ranking military staff.
Further charges were instead brought against Dreyfus based on trumped-up evidence. Ultimately, an open letter by influential writer Emile Zola galvanized public opinion in Dreyfus’s favour and the government was forced to re-open the case.
Dreyfus was pardoned in 1899 and later reinstated in the French Army, in which he served during World War One and retired with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
He died in 1935.
The film has received international acclaim from critics with the Italian press saying it was inconceivable that ‘An Officer and a Spy’ could go unrewarded at this year’s 76th Venice International Film Festival.
Meanwhile, London’s TimeOut magazine described it as “immaculate” giving it a five-out-of-five star rating, while The Guardian called it a “solid, well-crafted piece of professional carpentry”.
The UK’s Standard newspaper gave it four out of five stars, lauding the work as “an absolute master class in how to make a historical film.”
Following a standing ovation after it’s screening, many pundits tipped the period drama, set in 19th century France, for the top Golden Lion award.
Polański was not present at the event, due to an ongoing US extradition threat against him and the award was collected by his wife, actress Emmanualle Seigner, who also stars in the movie.
Another Polish success at the festival was Jan Komasa's film 'Corpus Christi' which won the Europa Cinemas Label award.
Komasa's film, inspired by real-life events, is the story of a twenty-year-old who, after leaving a juvenile detention centre, pretends to be a priest.
It was presented the Europa Cinemas Label award during the festival's Authors' Days.
The jury said the Polish film "clearly presents the conflict between good and evil in today's society."