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Berlinollywood? New Polanski Thriller Backed by German Government

It is notable that the previous three examples each deal in one way or another with Nazi Germany and the Second World War. German authorities and other German commentators often respond to criticisms of the public funding by protesting -- one might say, too much -- that the purpose of the subsidies is strictly economic. But consideration of the subjects of the financed projects -- and, above all, of the treatment of those subjects -- clearly suggests otherwise.

The “anti-bank” thriller The International (€5.8 million from the German Film Fund) is yet another example.

German public agencies have also, incidentally, subsidized the making of two highly publicized “art films” on the Middle East conflict: Waltz with Bashir, Ari Folman’s cartoon-account of the Sabra and Shatila massacre and Paradise Now, Hany Abu-Assad’s sympathetic portrait of a Palestinian suicide bomber. (On German and European funding of Waltz with Bashir, see my Pajamas Media report here; on German and European funding of Paradise Now, see here.)

The propaganda value of Polanski’s The Ghost Writer is obvious at first glance. One need only consider the film’s official synopsis:

When a successful British ghost writer, The Ghost, agrees to complete the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang, his agent assures him it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. But the project seems doomed from the start -- not least because his predecessor on the project, Lang’s long-term aide, died in an unfortunate accident. The Ghost flies out to work on the project, in the middle of winter, to an oceanfront house on an island off the U.S. Eastern seaboard. But the day after he arrives, a former British cabinet minister accuses Lang of authorizing the illegal seizure of suspected terrorists and handing them over for torture by the CIA – a war crime. ... As The Ghost works, he begins to uncover clues suggesting his predecessor may have stumbled on a dark secret linking Lang to the CIA -- and that somehow this information is hidden in the manuscript he left behind. Was Lang in the service of the American intelligence agency while he was prime minister? And was The Ghost’s predecessor murdered because of the appalling truth he uncovered?

The Ghost Writer is presently opening in cinemas all across Europe. It has thus far had only a limited release in the USA. As virtually all the advance publicity for the film in the European media makes clear, any apparent resemblances between Pierce Brosnan’s “Adam Lang” and a certain living former British prime minister are entirely intended.

Contrary to a popular misconception, Germany was not merely part of the self-styled “axis of peace” that opposed the Iraq War. Under then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Germany -- not France -- led the opposition to the war. (On this subject, see my discussion on World Politics Review here.)

In the meantime, the righteousness of this opposition has, of course, become European chapter-and-verse, and Tony Blair’s support for the war is widely regarded in Europe as his cardinal sin. What better way to explain this otherwise “inexplicable” betrayal of the European cause than to suggest that the former prime minister and notorious Bush “poodle” was in the pay of the perfidious Americans all along?

Even under the overtly more “Atlantist” leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany has in recent years continued to engage in a veritable war against America’s war on terror. Numerous episodes -- from the incessant German lobbying for the closure of the Guantánamo Bay prison camp to Germany’s protection of al-Qaeda financier Mamoun Darkazanli to the virtually united German opposition that killed the SWIFT agreement -- attest to this fact. It would appear that Germany’s “Culture Minister” Bernd Neumann has now purchased a new weapon to aid in the pursuit of this war: Roman Polanski.