An Officer and a Spy (film)

An Officer and a Spy (French: J'Accuse) is a 2019 French-Italian historical drama film directed by Roman Polanski about the Dreyfus affair, with a screenplay by Polanski and Robert Harris based on Harris's 2013 novel of the same name.

An Officer and a Spy
An Officer and A Spy poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRoman Polanski
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onAn Officer and a Spy
by Robert Harris
Music byAlexandre Desplat
CinematographyPawel Edelman
Edited byHervé de Luze
Distributed by
Release date
  • 30 August 2019 (2019-08-30) (Venice)
  • 13 November 2019 (2019-11-13) (France)
  • 21 November 2019 (2019-11-21) (Italy)
Running time
132 minutes[1]
  • France
  • Italy
Budget$24 million[2]
Box office$18.2 million[3]

It had its premiere at the 76th Venice International Film Festival on 30 August 2019, winning the Grand Jury Prize and the FIPRESCI Prize. It received 12 nominations for the 45th César Awards, the most nominations of any eligible film, and eventually won the awards for Best Adaptation, Best Costume Design, and Best Director. The film was also nominated in four categories at the 32nd European Film Awards, including for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenwriter, ultimately winning none. It received David di Donatello and Polish Film Awards nominations as Best Foreign and Best European film respectively.[4]


The film centres on the notorious 19th century Dreyfus affair. Jean Dujardin stars as French officer Georges Picquart. After being appointed chief of the army's intelligence section (Deuxième Bureau, service de renseignement militaire) in 1895, he discovers that doctored evidence was used to convict Alfred Dreyfus, one of the few Jewish members of the French Army's general staff, of passing military secrets to the German Empire. Picquart risks his career and his life, struggling for a decade to expose the truth and liberate the wrongly convicted Dreyfus from the dreaded Devil's Island prison.



Robert Harris was inspired to write the novel by his friend Polanski's longtime interest in the Dreyfus affair.[5] Harris followed up the novel with a script of the same story, titled D, with Polanski announced as director in 2012.[6]

This film marks the third time Harris has worked with Polanski.[7] Harris previously co-wrote The Ghost Writer with Polanski, which was also an adaptation of one of Harris's novels, The Ghost. The two first worked together in 2007 on a film adaptation of Harris's novel Pompeii,[8] which was cancelled just before filming due to a looming actors' strike.[9][10]

Although set in Paris, An Officer and a Spy was first scheduled to shoot in Warsaw in 2014, for economic reasons.[11] Production was postponed after Polanski moved to Poland for filming and the U.S. Government filed extradition papers. The Polish government eventually rejected them, by which time new French film tax credits had been introduced, allowing the film to shoot on location in Paris.

The film was budgeted at €60m and was next set to start production in July 2016,[12] but its production was postponed again while Polanski waited on the availability of a star, whose name was not announced.[13]

Filming began on 26 November 2018[14] and was completed on 28 April 2019.[15] The film was produced by Alain Goldman's Légende Films and distributed by Gaumont.[16]


The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on 30 August 2019.[17][18] At the Venice Film Festival, the film won the Grand Jury Prize.[19] It was released in France on 13 November 2019,[20] and in Italy on 21 November 2019.[21]


An Officer and a Spy holds 77% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 31 reviews, with a weighted average of 6.8/10.[22] On Metacritic, the film holds a rating of 56 out of 100, based on 9 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[23] The film received a standing ovation during its premiere in Venice,[24][25][26] and has overall received positive reviews from critics. David Sexton from the Evening Standard gave the film a rating of 4 out of 5, declaring that: "It's an absolute masterclass in how to make a historical film".[27]

The film has received backlash due to parallels Polanski allegedly made between his sexual abuse case and the film's plot.[28][29][30]


Polanski's attendance at the Venice Film Festival was his first appearance at a major film event since he was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in May 2018. During the festival, the head of the jury Lucrecia Martel stated: "I don't separate the man from the art. I think that important aspects of the work emerges in the man. [...] A man who commits a crime of this size who is then condemned, and the victim considers herself satisfied with the compensation is difficult for me to judge... It is difficult to define what is the right approach we have to take with people who have committed certain acts and were judged for them. I think these questions are part of the debate in our times."[31] Martel also stated she would not attend a gala dinner in support of the film.[32] Polanski's producers threatened to pull the film from the festival lineup.[33][34] Martel later clarified her comments, stating: "According to some reports after today's press conference, I believe my words were deeply misunderstood. Since I don't separate the work from the author and I have recognized a lot of humanity in Polanski's previous films, I am not opposed to the presence of the film in competition. I don't have any prejudice towards it and of course I will watch the film like any other in the competition. If I had any prejudice, I would have resigned my duty as the president of the jury."[35] Alberto Barbera, the festival director of Venice, had previously defended the film being in the lineup, stating: "We are here to see works of art, not to judge the person behind it. I hope we can just discuss about the quality of the film and not about Polanski and the case with L.A. County."[36]

U.S. distribution companies rejected invitations to a buyers' presentation during the Cannes Film Festival.[37][38] Howard Cohen of Roadside Attractions stated: "I think we would consider it, though I'm not even sure how I personally feel. People have been releasing his films for years. Now, we are looking at it through a different lens, with good reason. We have to search our souls if it's the right thing to do. What does it mean to release this movie? I don't think that's a settled question even in my mind."[39]

In November 2019, five days before the official release of An Officer and a Spy in France, Polanski faced accusations of rape by a French woman, Valentine Monnier. Upon the release, French feminist groups invaded or blockaded several cinemas, having the film cancelled in some places.[40]

When the film was nominated for 12 César Awards in January 2020, women's groups said that the French film academy was acclaiming "an abuser and rapist on the run".[40] Eventually, Polanski as well as other crew members of An Officer and a Spy did not attend the 45th César Awards ceremony.[41] No one was there to accept the awards on Polanski's behalf.[42][43] The César Award for Best Director to Polanski was poorly received by the audience. Few clapped, and several people walked out in disgust, including Best Actress nominee Adèle Haenel.[42][44]


  1. ^ "Biennale Cinema 2019 | J'accuse". La Biennale di Venezia. 19 July 2019.
  2. ^ Keslassy, Elsa (18 November 2019). "An Officer and a Spy Leads French Box Office Despite Roman Polanski Controversy".
  3. ^ "An Officer and Spy". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 28 February 2020.
  4. ^ "J'accuse – Awards". Retrieved 14 August 2020.
  5. ^ Anthony, Andrew (29 September 2013). "Robert Harris: 'Whenever a crowd is running one way, I run the other'". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  6. ^ "Roman Polanski to Direct Dreyfus Affair Drama 'D'". Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  7. ^ McClintock, Pamela (9 May 2012). "Roman Polanski to Direct Dreyfus Affair Drama 'D'". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 13 May 2012.
  8. ^ Variety 1 February 2007: Polanski propels 'Pompeii'. Retrieved 30 January 2012
  9. ^ Rotten Tomatoes 12 September 2007: Roman Polanski Flees Pompeii. Retrieved 30 January 2012
  10. ^ Mr. Beaks (5 March 2010). "Mr. Beaks Interrogates The Ghost Writer Novelist-Screenwriter Robert Harris!". Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved 5 March 2011.
  11. ^ "Polanski wants to make next movie in Poland". Archived from the original on 23 November 2016.
  12. ^ "Polanski tournera " Dreyfus " en France". 24 October 2016.
  13. ^ "Polański delays filming of spy thriller". Archived from the original on 5 April 2016.
  14. ^ "Jean Dujardin on Instagram: "Au boulot! 1er jour de tournage de #jaccuse de #romanpolanski @robertharrishome #colonel #mariegeorgespicquart"". Instagram.
  15. ^ "Jean Dujardin on Instagram: "Fin de tournage! Merci à toute l'équipe. #jaccuse de #romanpolanski photo @guyferrandis"". Instagram.
  16. ^ AlloCine. "J'accuse : Jean Dujardin chez Roman Polanski pour son film sur l'affaire Dreyfus".
  17. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (25 July 2019). "Joker, Ad Astra, The Laundromat, Marriage Story to Compete in Venice". Variety. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  18. ^ "Venezia 76 Competition". 25 July 2019. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  19. ^ Anderson, Ariston. "Venice: Todd Phillips' 'Joker' Wins Golden Lion, Roman Polanski Wins Silver Lion". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  20. ^ "J'Accuse". Gaumont Film Company. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  21. ^ "L'ufficiale e la spia". 01 Distribution. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  22. ^ "An Officer and a Spy (J'accuse) (2019)". Retrieved 30 June 2020 – via
  23. ^ "An Officer and a Spy Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  24. ^ Ulivi, Stefania (30 August 2019). "Venezia 2019, Roman Polanski: "Io come Dreyfus". Applausi al suo film "J'accuse"". Corriere della Sera.
  25. ^ "Venezia 76, applausi a 'J'accuse' di Polanski. Dujardin: "Un grande film diretto da un regista-sciamano"".
  26. ^ Satta, di Gloria (31 August 2019). "Festival del cinema, Polanski oltre le polemiche elogi e applausi per il suo J'accuse". ilmessaggeroit.
  27. ^ "An Officer and a Spy: Masterclass in how to make an historical film". Evening Standard. 30 August 2019.
  28. ^ Pulver, Andrew (1 October 2018). "Social media outrage over Roman Polanski film J'Accuse". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  29. ^ Grisar, PJ (6 September 2019). "Does Roman Polanski's New Film Make The Dreyfus Affair About Him?". The Forward. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  30. ^ Sugarman, Daniel (5 September 2019). "Why we should not be watching Roman Polanski's film on the Dreyfus Affair". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  31. ^ Barfield, Charles (28 August 2019). "Venice Jury President Lucrecia Martel Has Complicated Feelings About Polanski's Inclusion: "I Don't Separate The Man From The Art"". The Playlist. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  32. ^ Anderson, Ariston (28 August 2019). "Venice Jury Head Lucrecia Martel Says Polanski Has Right to Be in Lineup but She Won't Celebrate Him". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  33. ^ Anderson, Ariston; Roxborough, Scott (29 August 2019). "Venice: Roman Polanski's Producers Threaten to Pull Film After Jury President's Comments". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  34. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (29 August 2019). "Venice: Producer Considered Withdrawing Roman Polanski's Film After Jury President's Remarks". Variety. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  35. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (28 August 2019). "Venice Jury President Lucrecia Martel Clarifies Comments On Roman Polanski: No Prejudice Against Competition Film 'An Officer And A Spy'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  36. ^ Anderson, Ariston (25 July 2019). "Venice Chief Alberto Barbera Defends Lack of Women Directors, Roman Polanski Inclusion in Lineup". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  37. ^ Siegel, Tatiana; Roxborough, Scott (20 May 2019). "Cannes: Roman Polanski Film Gets Secret Presentation for Buyers". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  38. ^ Barfield, Charles (24 May 2019). "Woody Allen & Roman Polanski Are Both Getting The Cold Shoulder From US Distributors For Their New Films". The Playlist. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  39. ^ Sperling, Nicole (24 May 2019). ""Who Would Want to Spend Their Time on That?": Hollywood Weighs New Releases from Woody Allen and Roman Polanski". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  40. ^ a b Chrisafis, Angelique (29 January 2020). "Outrage as Polanski film nominated for 12 'French Oscars'". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 March 2020.
  41. ^ Roxborough, Scott (27 February 2020). "Roman Polanski Will Not Attend Cesar Awards". The Hollywood Reporter.
  42. ^ a b Césars : Roman Polanski désigné meilleur réalisateur, Les Misérables meilleur film
  43. ^ Willsher, Kim (1 March 2020). "Polanski's 'Oscar' divides elite world of French cinema". The Guardian.
  44. ^ Portrait of A Lady On Fire Star Adèle Haenel Storms Out of Awards Show After Roman Polanski Wins

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