Rosemary’s Baby is a very good movie, and Roman Polanski is a very bad man, but we can’t collectively erase the fact that he directed it.
The movie is being re-released soon by Paramount to celebrate its 50th anniversary. But when the trailer was released earlier this week, IndieWire noticed that someone’s name was conveniently left out of the movie description. It reads:
Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film that birthed a chilling new direction in horror. From Ira Levin’s best-selling novel, ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ tells the story of a young newlywed couple who are expecting their first child. Like most first-time mothers, Rosemary (Mia Farrow) experiences confusion and fear. Her husband (John Cassavetes), an ambitious but unsuccessful actor, makes a pact with the Devil that promises to send his career skyward. The performances are extraordinary, notably Ruth Gordon’s Oscar-winning performance as an over solicitous next-door neighbor.
Notice anyone missing? Director and screenwriter Roman Polanski, who was nominated for an Academy Award for the movie’s screenplay, isn’t even mentioned in the synopsis. Even the Devil himself gets a mention.
It’s understandable that Polanski, who escaped the U.S. as a fugitive after pleading guilty to raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977, isn’t someone you’d want to celebrate right now on the back of a DVD, especially as the spotlight on his crime has brightened during #MeToo. But you can’t pretend like he wasn’t involved with the movie; you might be able to cut Kevin Spacey out of a group ensemble before it hits theaters, but you can’t erase Polanski’s fingerprints over an entire film.
I don’t want to assume what Paramount will do with the re-release, but I’d argue that this could have been (could be?) an opportunity to reflect on Polanski’s crime as it relates to themes of misogyny and rape in Rosemary’s Baby. Clearly, Paramount thinks Rosemary’s Baby is a movie that shouldn’t just disappear because a rapist directed it, but it also means we’re going to have to actively confront his role in it.