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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
Move along, no story here
If you think that movies that deal with Nazi atrocities are inherently worthwhile, then you might think that this movie is inherently worthwhile. If, on the other hand, you expect a movie, whether it deals with Nazi atrocities or not, to actually tell a story, then I'd say there's a good chance you *won't* find this movie worthwhile.

What does this movie give us? Well, it gives us a string of Nazi atrocities, very realistically depicted, and it gives us what I suppose is supposed to be a main character, but it gives us precious little else! Most of main character's screen time is given over to him being acted upon by circumstances and by other people, but very little of him being pro-active, himself. And even his passivity might be interesting if we knew what he was thinking or feeling. But we are never given that information. We never know what it is that he really wants. Or how he feels, say, about the fact that his family was shipped off to their probable death, but he was saved by a fluke.

The picture is certainly well-made from the stand point of art direction and cinematography, but story-wise, it's a shambles. As far as I'm concerned, Roman Polanski owes me big-time. Thank you.
2003-02-27
Just trying to survive the war, so he could play piano again.
This movie is too long for what it depicts, one Jew's struggle to survive Nazi-occupied Warsaw during the second world war. The movie doesn't cover any new ground, the audience doesn't learn anything new. However, being a personal project for the director may account for its length. I hadn't planned to see it, because if you've seen one holocaust film, you've seen them all. And that is not in any way intended to minimize the horror of the mistreatment of the Jews, but how many times does a person need to see it reinacted to grasp the message? It happened, it was bad, we all need to do our part to see that nothing like that happens again. But I saw it for Adrien Brody, the hawkish actor who won the best actor Oscar for his performance. And, after seeing it, I believe it was deserved. The first hour of the movie established the setting and danger, the middle hour spends too much time showing the protagonist trying to survive, hiding in bombed-out buildings, scratching for food. We know it all happened, but if you show everything, the movie is 6 years long!!

The movie starts with actual black and white film footage of 1939 Warsaw, and we see its residents leading normal lives for that period. Then, cut to the movie, the pianist is playing for a live radio broadcast when bombs or artillery shells begin to explode and all Jewish families begin their fights for survival. Forced to wear identifying arm bands, eventually they were banished to their own ghetto, then the trains came.

SPOILERS are contained in the rest of my comments, for my own recollection, please read no further. The last half hour of the movie pulls everything together. The pianist is helped by a German soldier who discovers him, has him play piano for him, then secretly brings him food as the war winds down. When the Russians finally come to Warsaw, the few remaining Jews are out of danger, the Germans are imprisoned, and eventually the pianist is playing again for the radio, and the final scene is his playing a concert before a live audience. The pianist was a real person, this movie is a true story based on his book.
2004-06-26
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
good movie
This movie is beautifully shot and features some great acting. It has a nice mix of romance, drama and action scenes. The piano music fits the story nicely. I could not help but compare ThePianist to Schindler'sList, which i think is slightly better, as it has a more complete plot. ThePianist's plot is a bit thin; we get to see how the Jewish Pianist experiences the war years in Poland, chronologically. There's only a very thin connection between the things that happen and the fact that he's a pianist, which imho is not so satisfactory.

Don't get me wrong; it's a good, sad, movie: see it if you can.
2003-02-11
10 out of 10
The Pianist is an account of the true life experience of a Polish pianist during WW2, in the context of the deportation of the Jewish community to the Ghetto of Warsaw, a setting virtually absent from all films inspired on WW2.

Polanski (himself a child survivor of the Krakow and Warsaw ghettos) could have described in more detail the legendary, desperate fighting of the Jewish resistance in the ghetto of Warsaw, or the horrific mass extermination in concentration camps. Instead, the film gains in intensity by displaying the war from the pianist's own point of view (through windows, half-opened doors, holes in the walls - with big emphasis on the use of "point of view shooting" by the cameraman). One cannot help feeling disturbed by the most enthralling scenes of the film, as the isolated pianist tries to ensure his survival in the ghetto and ruins of Warsaw, hiding and fleeing, moving from one bombed house to the next, gradually becoming a shadow of his former self, hungry and afraid (merit largely attributed to the extraordinary performance by Adrien Brody, who visibly loses half of his weight throughout the film).

Does the pianist raise any sympathy from the audience? Not immediately, in my view. The pianist is more than often a drifting character, almost a witness of other people's and his own horrors. He seems to float and drift along the film like a lost feather, with people quickly appearing and disappearing from his life, some helping generously, others taking advantage of his quiet despair, always maintaining an almost blank, dispassionate demeanour. One may even wonder why we should care in the least about this character. But we do care. That is, I believe, the secret to this film's poetry.

In one of the strongest scenes, towards the end, a German officer forces the pianist to play for his life, in an episode that suddenly brings a much lighter, beautifully poetic shade to the film (this German officer will be probably compared to Schindler, although his philanthropy does not quite share the same basis).

This is also a wonderful tribute to Polish artists, through Chopin's music, with the concert at the very end of the film and the opening performance by the pianist at the local radio station (with the sound of bomb explosions in the background) forming an harmonious link between the beginning and end of the film (following Polanski's usual story-frame).

Overall, The Pianist is one of the most detailed and shocking accounts of the treatment of the Jews by the Nazis, with the atmosphere in Warsaw well captured and believable. Quite possibly, The Pianist will remain in the history of film-making as the most touching and realistic portraits of the holocaust ever made.

Polanski's film deserves a strong presence in the 2003 Oscar nominations, including a nomination for Adrien Brody's amazing performance, Polanski's sublime direction, best adapted screenplay and, obviously, best picture. This could be, at last, Polanski's long awaited, triumphal comeback to the high and mighty Hollywood.
2003-01-20
Vastly over-rated and highly simplistic
With a rating of 95 percent at Rotten Tomatoes and a place in the top 50 at IMDB I was expecting this to be a challenging film about the Holocaust. This however was not it. All this film says about the Holocaust was that life was tough then, little else. This is a rather obvious truth for everyone except Holocaust deniers, so why spend two hours telling us this. The film has story that is much too conventional and one that unfortunately lacks any great meaning.

The depiction of the Germans is perhaps the most straightforward you are likely to see. All you get is a bunch of stereotypical cinematic Nazis without any subtlety, until the final twenty minutes, when, SPOILER, Spillman runs into perhaps the only good German in all of Poland, if you go by the depiction of the Germans up to this point, who allows Spillman to escape.

This film simply alludes to some major questions instead of going into any depth. It shows a Jewish character who was from a certain point of view helping the Nazis, yet we do not see why this character is doing what he is doing. At least not in any depth.

One of the most remarkable things about this film is that it is about a Pianist, someone you would expect would have a soul. However, Spillman is simply a non-character which makes him being a pianist seem rather superfluous. This, however like the rather brief reference to the Merchant of Venice seems to be Polanski's main tool in this film: to allude to things that are deep and worthwhile, while saying nothing of the sort himself.

A brief glimpse through some of the reviews will find that a lot of critics have a rather simplistic view of the Third Reich, which may explain why they liked this rather simplistic film. One critic wrote that the Nazis were for barbarism and challenged everything that was beautiful and pure. This in turn would lead them to oppose Spillman and his profession: the professional pianist. This, however is not a rather simplistic view of the Nazi regime. The music that the Nazis opposed most strongly was modern music, in particularly the atonalism of the sort written by the great composer Schoenberg. This music was viewed by the Nazis as being crude. Hitler, himself was Wagner fanatic. However, the issue of Wagner opens up a lot of major historical issues that I can't go into. If, as some film critics are implying that this film is saying these things about the Third Reich, then I think this is a sad reflection of the intellectual state of modern critics. Although we may find The Third Reich totally repulsive we must not take the simplistic that it was a place where all great music was neglected, with the same being true for the Soviet Union. These regimes had a particular view of what was great in music, and a lot of these composers, the German composers admired by the Nazis and the Russian composers who worked within the Soviet regime are greats in music. The important thing to realise is that these regimes idealised music and other works of art and that is where the problem lies. The thinking behind this was quite often quite complex, with thinkers such as Hegel leading the way. Personally, I thought that the film made no such comment on the Third Reich, but if it did I find little validity in it.
2003-06-23
Top of the class
This film is simply the greatest of its type ever made. Brilliant directing, acting, and screenplay combines to draw you in to a historically sickening, but at the same time captivating plot. Brody really deserves his Oscar as he brings out the best in 'The Pianist'. His acting is subtle enough to make it feel like sometimes you are not watching a film, but are living through his eyes. At the same time it is also bold and loud enough to make you feel every emotion has his character takes his awful journey.

The plot line itself I will leave to you, go and watch this film and have an amazing time doing so!

Highly recommended, one of the best films you Will ever see!
2010-06-25
Honest Portrayal Of Szpilman's Complex and Horrible Situation
Danger: Spoilers Ahead

I had an opportunity to see The Pianist this weekend, and I must say, I thought it was excellent - more so than I had expected, and I generally appreciate both Adrien Brody (who plays Wladyslaw Szpilman) and Roman Polanski.

I've seen pretty much every WWII and Holocaust film ever made or subtitled in English, and The Pianist is quite possibly the best (in my mind better than my previous 3 favorites of this genre: Europa Europa, Life is Beautiful, and Schindler's List). Have read pretty much every book on the subject I can find, also, I can say that The Pianist also strikes me as the most balanced and realistic portrayal of the situation - and indeed this may be a problem for some people. (Like Schindler's List and Europa Europa, The Pianist is based on a true story - and I think it conveys this story more convincingly than either of those films).

What I think makes the Pianist such an excellent film is that it accepts the moral ambiguity of people on both sides, and makes obvious the fact that opportunism as much as ideology played a part in the actions of individuals on both sides. One "villian" in the form of the Jewish Police officer also plays a beneficial part in the life of Szpilman. The unexpected hero in the form of the sympathetic German Hosenfeld does not reap any reward for his good deeds. Szpilman himself feels that perhaps he should have stood by his comrades more directly in various actions such as the Ghetto Uprising, and while everyone who has read about it thinks they understand "survivor guilt" Polanski and Brody do an excellent job of making you believe that Szpilman really feels it.

Some reviewers seem to have missed the point of the moral ambiguity, which I find disheartening. They say that the good Jews help Szpilman out of sympathy, ideology, and comraderie, and the Gentiles out of opportunism, guilt, and only because he is a great pianist. I felt that the film showed that both groups who helped Szpilman had reasons ranging through all of the above, and part of the truthfulness of the portrayal was that the "moral divide" was not so clear.

The scene with Hosenfeld, in particular, struck me as being indicative of the filmmakers' perspective on this. While many may believe that Hosenfeld doesn't kill Szpilman because he is a great pianist, the beginning of the scene, in which Hosenfeld questions Szpilman with no weapons drawn, calling none of his subordinates to him, and in a civil, human tone is indicative of the filmmakers' belief that this person's core beliefs have eaten through his indoctrination. Hosenfeld has no reason, within the context of the Nazi system, to bother to find out anything about Szpilman, yet he does. When Hosenfeld attempts to get out of the prison camp by saying he helped Szpilman, it seems a desperate attempt rather than one calculated during the time in which the tables were turned. It becomes the undeserved punishment of someone who, for no reason other than his own character, performed good deeds in a terrible situation (which he helped to create, but which others of equal anonymity who went unpunished did more to create and less to counter).

Similarly, the moral ambiguity is amplified by the pragmatics of the situation. When Szpilman's brother and sister choose to be with their family in "relocation", their actions read as "morally correct" but pragmatically quite stupid (as Szpilman himself comments). It calls into question whether or not it is equally morally correct to save yourself in order to carry-on the struggle to save not just yourself, but what is left of the community, perhaps even to join with Partisans in a direct attempt to change the situation. Szpilman recognizes the value of carrying on, but feels tremendous guilt about both abandoning his family and not joining in the Ghetto Uprising.

It is this moral complexity which makes The Pianist so compelling. It does not attempt to paint the picture in terms of "Good Jews" and "Bad Germans", but rather that both sides had their heroes, villians, and confused people who could be seen as both, and that not every good deed was rewarded or bad deed punished - which from my readings, and from the stories my grandmother has told me (such as my Grandfather's life being saved by a Ukranian SS officer), is much more honest and plays on-screen as more compelling and realistic. The film does this without overstating its point and falling into the trap wherein it tries to make Jews "equally culpable" for the Holocaust. Rather, it makes clear the morally complex situation into which people were thrown, and that each responded to it according to their own character.

I think Szpilman would find this film an appropriate interpretation of his writing, and I recommend both the film and the book to anyone who is interested in such topics.

2003-01-13
The Pianist is a great story with one of the best performances from an actor
The Pianist's story is one that grips the viewer and takes them on a gut wrenching ride. Adrain Brodie's performance as the Jewish piano player is one to remember, that is not to say that every other actor in the film was not good in this case they were all great. Even to the smallest characters that are only on screen for a matter of seconds are up to par. Also having the film be based off of a book adds to the amount of detail that the director has put into the film. I am talking about the things Adrian Brodie's character sees throughout the streets during this hard time for him. In the end The Pianist is a great story that is accompanied by great performances. The story of the Holocaust is a topic that should and will not be forgot and The Pianist keeps those who lost their lives in memory.
2017-01-17
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
See Also
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