Cédric Kahn’s account of the little-known trials of Pierre Goldman is both gripping and pertinent
The trials of Pierre Goldman are little known in the UK, but infamous in France and inevitably draw comparisons with the Dreyfus Affair. Goldman was imprisoned for life in 1974 for the murder of two women in a Paris pharmacy in 1969. France’s death penalty was not abolished until 1981, so he was lucky to have avoided the guillotine.
This film from director Cédric Kahn covers Goldman’s second trial in 1976. Played by Arieh Worthalter, the protagonist vehemently protests his innocence and we never doubt him. What is on trial here, is the French judiciary system and police prejudice against Jews and left-wing activists. Goldman challenges the establishment’s institutional antisemitism and racism, and what is examined, is not so much a double murder, but the character and motivation of the accused himself.
The opening prepares us for Goldman’s complex personality. He has labelled his lawyer Georges Kiejman (played by Arthur Harari, who co-wrote another French courtroom drama, Anatomy of A Fall) an ‘armchair Jew’. Goldman is uncompromising, a man of action and, by his own admission, not necessarily noble, but fully committed to his beliefs. Thus, he refuses to name the one person who has framed him, because his father taught him to “never rat on anyone”.