(translation from Italian)
The Hungarian princes Esterházi are one of the noblest families in Austria and Hungary. A representative of this family moved to Paris at the time of the Belle Epoque, between 1890 and 1895, then the times of Marcel Proust, the times of the Impressionists, the moment when Paris is the capital of the world. Ferdinand Esterházi was a dissolute man, a play boy, a player full of debts, but also a Major of Artillery in the Armée, the French army, and together with a certain Alfred, a provincial from Alsatia, without any cover, diligent, hardworking and serious, both are suspected of espionage in favor of the foreign power at that time more incumbent that was Prussia, that is Germany.
But who is chosen as a suspect among these two?
Who is chosen as a culprit?
The provincial because he is a Jew.
Imagine discrimination and racism that dominated a capital of that world and that era if there are still echoes in today's world...
In this way the famous Dreyfus affair starts, the great court case of the late 1800s which is the basis of Roman Polanski's film "An Officer and A Spy" based on the novel by Robert Harris.
The original title of the film is J'accuse, referred to the famous article of the great writer Emile Zola.
At the beginning of the film Dreyfus is accused, judged, sentenced, degraded and sent to the Devil's Island to serve a life sentence.
Everything is based on a very fragile trial that the new chief of the army's intelligence section, then called statistical office, turns out to be really small, indeed even been completely prefabricated on the injury that Alfred Dreyfus, being a Jew, could be capable of anything and having to discover a spy inside the army, because there was evidence of a spy, who do you choose as a spy?
You choose the pariah, you choose the one that matters least, you choose the one that in common prejudice could be a spy, a delinquent, an abject, that is, a Jew.
And everyone is convinced that it's true.
Major Georges Picquart is played by a splendid Jean Dujardin, whom we know because for The Artist he won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a Bafta, a Golden Palm, for his extraordinary interpretation in a silent film today, therefore with an expressiveness, a capacity, an intelligence, an irony and an extraordinary comedy.
This time he plays a completely opposite character. He descends into a torn, almost dark character that when discovers the truth, realizes he must fight against power. He is a servant of the state being a soldier and above all being the chief of an office as delicate as that of intelligence, but he is between a rock and a hard place, between power and truth. Any effort he makes to go towards the truth is completely frustrated by power, that does not want to criticize itself.
Because the paradox of this story is that, being now the matter of Dreyfus in the final judgment and having been fed to public opinion as a form of moral washing and cleanliness, can no longer be questioned.
So our Picquart is facing a pyramid, a monolith, an immense mountain of lies which cannot be and above all must not be affected to safeguard the true and just serious face of power, which is actually a mask of hypocrisy, and he absolutely cannot break this image in the name of truth.
The truth becomes a detail, an extremely annoying goad, that like a blowfly, it must be killed and eliminated. And Georges Picquart also annoys: "But who makes him do it... But don't get in the way... But you must obey... But what is the truth for... "
Polanski represents all this important matter in a really fierce manner.