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The Pianist
Year:
2002
Country:
UK, Germany, France, Poland
Genre:
Drama, Biography, History, War
IMDB rating:
8.5
Director:
Roman Polanski
Adrien Brody as Wladyslaw Szpilman
Thomas Kretschmann as Captain Wilm Hosenfeld
Frank Finlay as Father
Maureen Lipman as Mother
Emilia Fox as Dorota
Ed Stoppard as Henryk
Julia Rayner as Regina
Wanja Mues as SS Slapping Father
Richard Ridings as Mr. Lipa
Nomi Sharron as Feather Woman
Anthony Milner as Man Waiting to Cross
Lucy Skeaping as Street Musician
Roddy Skeaping as Street Musician
Ben Harlan as Street Musician
Storyline: A brilliant pianist, a Polish Jew, witnesses the restrictions Nazis place on Jews in the Polish capital, from restricted access to the building of the Warsaw ghetto. As his family is rounded up to be shipped off to the Nazi labor camps, he escapes deportation and eludes capture by living in the ruins of Warsaw.
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Reviews
Film and Music, Pain and Fire
Spoilers herein.

Nearly any film is for me a double experience: the watching and the post-coital rumination. That second phase can make the experience worthwhile even when the film itself is ordinary or poorly done.

But it works the other way as well, especially when a film is designed for discussion: the film delivered with so many opinions that themselves are ordinary or poorly done. This film comes so charged. Szpilman wasn't `Jewish enough' to be the center of an important holocaust film, goes the most ordinary and loudest of them. I suppose there are some things about the commingling of descriptive art and definitive life to be said there. But one likes to have more freedom in post-film thoughts and that whole topic is dominated by the sorts of reflexive responses manipulated by film.

There's a second prepackaged topic concerning whether `Schindler' was better or `worse.' I don't consider Spielberg's film a holocaust film at all: he lives in a happy world, where justice and right (and lots of other happy values) always triumph. His observations are always external. His goal is always to tell a story, a stance that furthers the distance between his films and reality. Polanski's project has no story at all, merely a life of accidents. His camera is within the artist's personal space. His own mannerisms are Eastern European and depressed, congruent with what he shows. (Speilberg's Schindler really did have the silk unctuousness of the East, but as observed from California.) So I credit Polanski's vision as having more historical credibility than Speilberg's, knowing that despite the best efforts of us all to avoid having practical history made by the movie marketplace.

(One exception, where Polanksi is offensively theatrical: when Szpliman runs from the destroyed hospital, he faces a street of desolation as far as one can see, `High Noon'-wise.)

Much more interesting to my mind is the portrayal of an artist. Polanski has always been deeply self-referential in his work: always there is an examination of the artist within the art. And I make a minor hobby out of collecting film experiences that do this with music and mathematics because I have some personal experience to work with.

For those who don't know: Poland‘s pride is Chopin, who invented a relationship to the piano that not only defined modernity but reinvented everything about musical performance. (Film would follow this lead in 1941.) Chopin built pieces designed to be bent in performance, designed with empty rooms that a pianist could explore. Unlike, Bach for instance, where the magic of the performance was in attuning to Bach and his intent, the performer of Chopin really could bring his own soul to parity with God. Szpliman was a strong pianist, and therefore more than a national character, instead a reflection of the Polish heart.

Here, we watch this man compromise his own pride, eschew his religion, run away from every opportunity for dignity in order to keep his hands warm to play another day; and not just play, but play on the radio for Poles. So during this painful journey, we assume what we are meant to in films about tortured artists: that the pain we are watching will be transmuted by this man into great art that will lift us all. His own personal denigration - what is done to him and the denigrating choices he makes - are worth it overall.

This is where the fatal pessimism of Polanski stops, because he doesn't let us know the musical truth. This is not Szpilman‘s playing of course, but not much unlike him. Szpilman was a `safe' player, one who never had the strength or desire to add much to Chopin. That's why he was on the radio: his `interpretations' were unchallenging and palatable. But he would never have been considered an artist of note at all if he had not survived the perfect brutality of the Germans, whose own music, though sentimental was constrained in ways that Chopin's never was. The payoff is supposed to be that after his trials, the artist is now - theoretically - capable of expressing the pain and yearning of the world. That we are meant to so think is clear from the end, where he plays with the glow of Dreyfuss from `Music of the Heart.'

Ah, but not so. The sound we actually hear throughout is by Olejniczak, a similarly ordinary man. Szpilman did not in fact come through a better artist, but much worse: a meek pianist. `Shellshocked,' postwar contemporaries would say.

Contrast this with Artur Rubinstein. Jewish Pole of the previous generation, and the first giant to explore Chopin's rubato. He had his own dark nights, but not because the world was inhospitable. Listen to his recordings (freely available) compared to Szpilman‘s (hard to get) or even Olejniczak‘s on the soundtrack. These are two different universes. One is merely pleasant, the other life-altering.

Polanski has made some great films (including the under-appreciated `Ninth Gate'), and his thinking through of the intellectual reach of a project is extensive but he has ultimately let us down here. Implicit in much of modern Jewishness is the triumph of enrichment of the people through their tribulation. Perhaps that is true, but this film undermines the idea when selecting Szpilman as metaphor.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 4: Worth watching.
2003-04-21
Le Pianiste" redirects here. For the 2001 French film originally titled La Pianiste
The Pianist is a 2002 biographical war drama film directed by Roman Polanski, written by Ronald Harwood and starring Adrien Brody.[1] It is an adaptation of Death of a City, a World War II memoir by the Polish-Jewish musician Władysław Szpilman. The film is a co-production between Poland, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. The Pianist met with significant critical praise and received multiple awards and nominations. At the 75th Academy Awards, The Pianist won Oscars for Best Director (Polanski), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ronald Harwood) and Best Actor (Brody), and was also nominated for four other awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. The film was awarded the Palme d'Or at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival,[2] BAFTA Award for Best Film, BAFTA Award for Best Direction in 2003 and seven French Césars including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor for Brody.
2012-11-22
Excellent effects, authentic display of Nazi-violence, but lacks otherwise
(no spoilers) This movie displays very detailed the cruelty and inhumane treatment particularly of Jews in Poland during the Nazi regime. The special effects in the movie are as brilliant as you would expect them to be after having seen movies like Saving Private Ryan, for example.

However, when it comes to a logical and interesting story-line the movie really would not have suffered from improvements. I mean, displaying Nazi cruelties has been previously well shown in other WWII movies (Schindler's list for example) and alone it doesn't represent anything original and neither does it add up nicely to an interesting plot. Although it might have been very important to Polanski to stress the war crimes committed, a pure listing of horrifying events does surely not make a good movie, it rather fills you with disgust.

The pianist's love towards music, the emotions during the loss of beloved ones and during separation in addition to those horrifying scenes of cruelty and in general more plausible acting rather than a mere run-and-hide movie would have made this movie less boring (if you can describe horrifying scenes as boring).

During the first 45 minutes I wondered if I actually wanted to watch this movie at all. Later in the movie I felt better, though. In general, the movie shouldn't need to be that long.
2003-04-19
Lacks a bit of character development and not as powerful as I expected it to be
This is a well crafted movie that deserves some praise, but I still felt the film is a bit overrated. I guess it's cause I was expecting a phenomenal and amazing movie, but what I got was a pretty good movie. It just wasn't as powerful or compelling as I thought it would be. Adrien Brody was almost perfect for this role, his transition from being a prideful musician to a broken down man was done really well. This film just wasn't all that challenging, the plot is basically based on a true story of Władysław Szpilman(Adrien Brody). And his struggle to survive during the Holocaust. The thing is the whole thing seems a bit conventional a lot of aspect of this movie just seemed to narrow at times and straightforward which isn't necessarily a good thing and lack depth. The film also seemed to drag a bit because of the direction it kept going, it's a good movie and I agree with some of the positive feedback this film has been getting. It just isn't a powerful or amazing film I was looking forward to seeing, not one of those movies I feel I need to see again someday after it's finished. It really isn't a masterpiece like come critics claim it to be.

7.8/10
2011-02-16
I'm physically upset
I knew Roman Polanski's talent but was not prepared to this descent to Hell, described in painstaking detail. I'm physically upset after watching this film. The sense of disgust is real. How awful. How awful.

I could not help identifying myself with the Jewish Poles in Varsovia. I couldn't help thinking that the paralytic old man thrown down the window could be my grandfather. Couldn't help thinking that the kid savagely pulled through the wall could be my brother. Couldn't help thinking that the girl asking the SS-guard the wrong question and being killed just for that, could be myself.

The film describes beastly destruction of any dignity, and yet the struggle for surviving despite everything, even if rationally you realise that, perhaps, it would be even better to end it all at once. It describes the dishonesty of people profiting of this situation to make business out of your misery. It describes your need of believing the words of men NOT of their word, if they promise you life. And affection and courage surviving despite all this.

This film could make a good pair with "der Untergang" with Bruno Ganz, which is also such a masterpiece that you may risk feeling sympathetic with the Nazi. Have you had this temptation? Watch "The Pianist".
2006-01-25
The Pianist is about young Jewish man who his talent for playing the piano led to an unexpected journey
The Pianist is one of many films about the holocaust that I've seen lately which shows either perspective of Jewish man in Warsaw, Poland struggling to survive WWII during the long years that people in Europe thought were antagonizing. I feel moved by Adrien Brody's main protagonist toward the middle of the film. He desperately in search to stay silent, keep out of sight, and his survival to remain alive. It gives me quite an idea of how things weren't so great for him or for anybody during those dark times. I'm forever grateful even though it burns in my fiery soul. Adrien Brody is one of the best choice for best actor in the Pianist. His mind, body, and soul led him through the German-Nazi turmoil to a new and bright future.
2017-06-20
powerful
This is going to be a difficult review as difficult and disturbing the movie "The Pianist" was. Even though our world is saturated with crime and violence I still had close my eyes for some of the scenes in this movie. At one point I thought that it was too much. I have seen many, many movies about the WW2, but a have never seen violence in such a blunt way. One has to be in a lot of pain to be able to make such a movie, which is pretty much the case with Mr. Polanski.

The movie tells the true story of a man who survives the holocaust by pure chance, luck, stoicism, and the good will of few good people. Or maybe everything was just a fate. Don't expect to see a hero or fighter kind of story. No, he is just a man fighting for his own survival. This is not a thriller.

I knew that there would be a scene where the pianist is supposed to play for a German solder so I was looking forward to seeing it. I wanted to see the direction of the scene, the acting of them both (the pianist and the officer), and of course, hear the music. Well, it was a breathtaking experience. See it for yourself

P.S. At the end I think that the Russians a very much in debt to that genre-movies dealing with the WW2. They used to make such a great movies about the war, but not anymore. I think it is about time to see a high budget Russian WW2 movie, a film about those who carried out the entire war on their shoulders.
2003-08-29
One of the most moving films about the war that I know
There have been innumerable films about World War II, but relatively few about the Holocaust, a subject which, at least for the first few decades after the war, seemed to daunt film-makers by its very enormity. Since the 1980s, however, there have been some fine attempts to come to terms with the most notorious crime of the twentieth century, including Pakula's "Sophie's Choice" and Spielberg's "Schindler's List". Roman Polanski's "The Pianist" is another to add to this list.

The film is based on the autobiography of Władysław Szpilman, a Jewish pianist, who survived the Nazi occupation of Poland. (As one character points out, Szpilman's surname is an appropriate one; it is a Polonised form of "Spielmann", the German for "musician"). In September 1939 the Szpilman family are living in relative middle-class comfort in Warsaw when they learn that the country has been invaded by Germany. The film then traces the way in which the situation of Poland, and especially of its Jewish community, deteriorates throughout the course of the war- the passing of anti-Jewish laws, the creation of the Warsaw Ghetto in November 1940 and finally the deportations to the concentration camps beginning in 1942. By a stroke of chance Szpilman is separated from his family when they are deported to Treblinka extermination camp. For a time he becomes a slave labourer, but manages to escape and is sheltered by non-Jewish friends linked to the Polish resistance, surviving while thousands are dying around him and while his city is gradually turned into a wasteland of rubble.

A key scene comes towards the end of the film. Much of the city, including the building in which Szpilman was sheltering, has been destroyed in the aftermath of the Warsaw Uprising of August 1944, and Szpilman is desperately trying to hide in a ruined building when he is discovered by a German officer named Wilm Hosenfeld. Hosenfeld guesses that Szpilman is Jewish, but takes pity on him and spares his life, even bringing him food and giving him a coat to help him survive.

Szpilman's story had a deep personal significance for Polanski, himself a Polish Jew who managed to survive the war in hiding, although other members of his family, including his mother, died. It is therefore unsurprising that it has a greater emotional resonance than many of Polanski's earlier films, which can often be rather emotionally cool. Szpilman is a gifted musician, but his survival has very little to do with his talent and a great deal to do with the kindness of others and with sheer luck. It is a role which called for a superb actor, and Polanski was fortunate enough to find one in the shape of Adrien Brody, who won a well-deserved "Best Actor" Oscar. (Strangely enough, Brody was not the director's first choice for the role- that was Joseph Fiennes, who was unavailable). Brody's Szpilman becomes a sort of Everyman figure, a tragic version of Chaplin's Little Tramp, stumbling his way through a city which has been reduced to a vision of Hell on Earth. As Roger Ebert put it, he is not a fighter or a hero but a survivor.

Polanski himself won the "Best Director" award. The film was nominated for Best Picture, but lost to "Chicago". "The Pianist" is a harrowing record of man's inhumanity to man, but it is also a film with a message of hope in that it shows how even unspeakable barbarity like that of the Nazis cannot altogether extinguish man's better instincts, shown by the kindness and bravery of Szpilman's friends and his defiant rendition of Chopin's Grande Polonaise Brillante at the end. It is one of the most moving films about the war that I know, comparable in this respect to either Pakula's or Spielberg's. 9/10
2017-01-20
A Graduate Course In Human Cruelty
Spoilers Ahead:

This film equals or surpasses Schindler's List. It is on the micro or individual level versus the macro or group level of Schindler's. Brody gives such a powerful, quiet, understated performance and Polanski shows why if he applied his considerable gift towards less supernatural films we would all be quite richer. Polanski's signature in this movie is showing little snippets of individual cruelty; he let's us project outwards the large sum of all these acts of evil. Slapping the father for walking on the sidewalk, making the Jews dance with each other, and my favorite taking the grandfather, in the wheelchair, lifting him over the balcony and dropping him several stories. I prefer this movie to Schindler's because the cruelty in taken down to the everyday, human level. Schindler's was so large, the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, you get lost in the sheer numbers of the horror you are witnessing. Here, you get to look out it close up. Polanski does not paint all of his countrymen as saints, notice how one slob abandons Brody, using his name to collect money for his care, pocketing it and not caring what happens to Szpilman.

Brody really draws us in with his quiet, slight unimposing manner; we run with him as he is forced to flee from one piece of safety to another. Who will forget him making the racket and the big Nazi cow bellowing Jew! Jew! as he runs away. The horrors of working for these insects how any trip or mistake is punished with severe beatings. Book burning, corpulent, stupid, Bratwurst eating fatheads yelling and beating. I love the scene where they have to line up, the tall pig picks people out at random, makes them lay down and shoots them. Watch for the poor last guy when the swine runs out of bullets and calmly reloads while the man waits to die. What Polanski did is blend inextricably the beautiful classical music Brody plays with the images of human cruelty. Spielberg did the same with a scene in Schindler's where while they are machine gunning hiding stragglers at night, in the buildings, the machine gun reports blend with some Nazi playing Bach; the idiot listening calls it Mozart demonstrating his ethics equal his musical knowledge.

The point of the synthesis is a lesson in misanthropy. When you hear that beautiful music, remember what the humans who generated it are also capable of doing to their fellow man. We see this replicated at the end where the Nazi who catches Brody, demands the starving, shaking, emaciated man play the piano for him like a performing monkey. Some people felt sorry when his mercenary kindness to Brody doesn't bear fruit later when the Russians capture him; I was not one of those people. He got just what he deserved. The movie is so gently done, except for a few scenes of the Warshaw Uprising, there really are not big macro moments. Yet, that is its beauty; we experience is all through Brody's eyes. This harmless, tiny man who plays the piano with great beauty; this juxtaposition, the beauty with the ugliness is why Roman Polanski is such a great director. It is not a movie, it is an experience you will take with you the rest of your days. They still haven't released it on Blu Ray for some stupid reason; how they could have missed this great film for conversion to HD escapes me. A Great Film From A Brilliant Man.

"A man selling stolen goods and the other paying with counterfeit money; that is your picture of human nature." Mark Twain
2015-07-18
It's like Schindler's List only I care
I don't go as far as saying holocaust movies are vanity projects of directors showing that they too can make an epic.But where Spielberg's "Schindler's List" was somewhere way in the distance and ages ago,"The Pianist" puts you in the action with the old trick of having a main character you care about.Bit by piece we get to see the downfall of the Jewish community in well,everywhere.Originally they just get discriminated and won't get to do anything to be anywhere,but are still members of society who usually don't get killed.Then it gets ugly.The ghettos,the incredible lack of everything,the random executions,I knew they existed but never have they seemed so sincere on behalf of the makers.What to say about an old man eating what appears to be liquid corn straight of the road?Eventually we learn yet again that the holocaust in fact,really made no sense.We're talking about Western Europe here,and it isn't even a long time ago.People were somewhat educated,thought for themselves when the Gestapo wasn't watching,and still most of them just went along with this crap.I was fearing a "Night Of The Living Dead"-style ending,but this is based on an autobiography so that would have been impossible.Five years of hate packed in about two hours,and it works.
2008-05-05
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