Dir: Cédric Kahn | Cast: Arieh Worthalter, Arthur Harari, Stéphan Guérin-Tillié, Nicolas Briançon, Aurélien Chaussade | France, Drama 118’
Courtroom dramas have always been popular on the big screen and the latest crop has provided solid entertainment and done well award-wise on the festival circuit. Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall, won the Palme D’or at Cannes’, and Alice Diop’s Saint Omer, garnered the main prize at Venice last summer, with Santiago Mitre’s Argentina 1985 scooping the FIPRESCI prize.
Based on real events, Cédric Kahn’s The Goldman Case is a caustic affair redolent of the politically charged 1970s (the time of the Red Brigades and Badder-Meinhof group) and bristling with the anger and self-righteousness of its central character, the militant leftwing radical Pierre Goldman accused of murder and robbery.
As we are constantly reminded in these legal battles, the truth is irrelevant, the outcome always depends on the clever application of the law and the jury’s verdict. But as the trial gets underway, it soon emerges that this man has been falsely accused, and vehemently denies both the murder of two pharmacists and four counts of robbery. The plot turns on whether the all important jury with find him guilty as charged, or innocent.
Kahn, who wrote the script with Nathalie Hertzberg, sets the scene well, opening with a meeting in the offices of the defendant’s lawyer, Maître Kiejman (Arthur Harari). From then on we are closeted in the claustrophobic confines of the courtroom for the pithy procedural, all and sundry sweating it out in their closely tailored woollen suits as the fiery rhetoric flies backwards and forwards. And no one is more belligerent than the defendant himself – Worthalter is screen dynamite, remaining a figure of outright indignation to the very last as the falsely accused Goldman. The resentment he exudes is palpable, but whether you can stand the heat for two hours in this smouldering battle of wits inspired by his prison penned autobiography, ‘Obscure Memories of a Polish Jew Born in France’, is arguable.
Patrick Ghiringhelli does his best to make it all cinematic but this is rather a dry drama that serves to showcase the antisemitism and racism of the era, not least on the part of the police, and will certainly go down well with left wing intellectuals. It does seem extraordinary than a man could be accused and stand trial in such a high profile way without substantial proof of guilt, or indeed, any tangible witnesses. An off-duty policeman (Jeanson) – who purportedly saw the defendant at the scene of the crime – is wheeled into the witness box, and a friend of Goldman’s (Tshibangu) claims he was coerced by the police into giving evidence. Polish actor Jerzy Radziwilowicz (from Man of Marble) plays Goldman’s father, a war veteran who bolsters his son’s case from the outset, inculcating him with a strong sense of self belief from childhood that eventually led to a stint as a guerrilla in Venezuela. A strong cast also includes Nicolas Briancon as the judge Maitre Garaud. MT
IN CINEMAS IN FRANCE/BELGIUM | CANNES 2023 PREMIERE