Starring: Adrien Brody, Daniel Caltagirone, Thomas Kretschmann,
Wilm Hosenfeld, Frank Finlay, and Maureen Lipman
Directed by: Roman Polanski
Pianist is an multi-note concerto masterpiece for the screen.
An orchestra of emotions will dance through your head as you follow
the real-life account from renowned Polish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman
when his world changed, was interupted, by war and history.
Szpilman (Adrien Brody) we meet is young, successful, handsome,
and talented as the film begins in metropolitan Warsaw. In fact
so completely a part of society is Szpilman we meet him as he's
giving a radio concert while bombs drop announcing the arrival
of the Nazis.
his family, as is all the population of Warsaw, is stunned. But
they also sadly believe this will pass, shortly. The once peacful
airwaves are now filled with anti-Semitism and the bustling street
with foreign soldiers. The city starts, a little too late, to
realize things are getting darker by the minute.
you can spin the dradle Hitler orders all the Jewish citizens
of Warsaw wrangled into an overcrowded ghetto walled off from
the rest of the city. We watch as the Szpilmans and thousands
of other Jewish families are herded disbelieving, feeling safer
with agreement and powerless to act are sent, with bits of their
belongings in hand, into this hell hole like vermin.
remains relatively (and surprisingly) calm as life as they knew
it comes to a screeching halt. He even continues his music by
becoming a saloon pianist behind the walls while his more outraged
brother joins the resistance in planning a rebellion.
pit in our stomach grows larger and heavier as we watch, helpless,
as Szpilman loses his entire family to the death camps then is
worked close to death in filthy inhumane conditions. When our
hearts can take no more, somehow he manages to escape.
but "freedom" is bittersweet for the poor guy as yet
again he finds himself in a prison of sorts dealing once again
with the icky side of human nature.
greatest thing about director Roman Polanski's Pianist is he never
softens Szpilman. He doesn't pretty the man's journey back to
life up. The real Szpilman, who wrote the memoirs this film is
based on, was no hero. He was just a man stuck in a horrid situation
trying to get through. Trying to survive. Too often we see the
stories that make super heroes out of men and women of war only
making what happened even more surreal and uncomprehendable and
therefore unreal. By keeping Szpilman as he was in real life,
grounded and simple, it was all the more terrifying and relatable
and will remind us what should never happen again. And like The
Grey Zone (Tim Blake Nelson's recent wünder-film
on the Holocaust) The Pianist doesn't judge its subject
just lets us see, as he saw, the atrocities.
it were not for the dollops in Szpilman's story of a few kind
and human people, this film could have been a morbidly depressing
reality check. Thankfully among the evil masses there were some
people who truly tried to fight against the drones.
Brody holds your attention tightly in his descriptive face and
remarkable delivery. What a performance. Considering the man is
in every single scene you would think you'd grow bored. But he
morphs from this elegant sophisticated upper crust concert pianist
to a man diabolically driven to succeed in the simplest of tasks;
like find food or warmth. Adrien is so completely perfect in the
role you become bewitched early on. Wow.
Polanski puppets a poignant story of one man's will to survive.
His sets and designers caught the feeling of Warsaw as it was,
adding to the eerieness of our journey. And the most remarkable
thing about The Pianist (after Brody's performance that
is) is that in the end, through our uncontrollable tears
of empathy, we still see that there is hope for mankind. The film
certainly makes the guy cutting you off in the left lane way less
important. Bring tissues.
aside: Szpilman seemed almost disattached at times and apparently
the man actually remained in Warsaw till his death. Odd, but who
are we to judge how something so hideous affects one's soul?
Recommendation: Borsht and bread