Unlike the previous reviewer, I have decided to go for the Full Monty and give "The Pianist" a 5 star rating. The film is a biopic of the talented Jewish pianist Wladislaw Szpilman ,set against the backdrop of the Nazi occupation of Warsaw throughout World War Two. The full scale of the persecution of the Polish Jews during this period is laid bare, as verbal abuse turned to physical assault, dehumanisation , ghettoisation and ultimately extermination."The Pianist" is the story of Szpilman's personal experience of these times as he is thrown from the cosseted surroundings of his prime time slot playing Chopin on Polish Rundfunk into the grim surroundings of the Warsaw ghetto with all its deprivation,uncertainty and terror.As he gets separated from his family and friends, a primeval and astonishing lust for survival consumes Szpilman as he faces all manners of peril."The Pianist" is a gripping film from beginning to end with Adrien Brody playing Szpilman with great skill and emotion as chaos and confusion engulf his well ordered life. It is as harrowing, but not as graphic as "Schindlers List" , but it captures perfectly the demonic nature of the Nazis and the sense of dread and terror that surrounded their occupation. However I rated "The Pianist" so highly because of the thread of metaphysical symbolism that ran through it. Szpilman and his music were the corporeal expression of the human spirit, perhaps even of the Holy Spirit, surrounded by an almost supernatural hate, forced into hiding , stalked by terror, but never extinguished.
on 16 February 2006
The Pianist is Wladislaw Szpilman, a young man from a Jewish family who works as a musician in Warsaw. The early part of the film shows that increasing tension as the Nazi menace spreads ever closer, until the invasion finally happens. At this point, Szpilman loses his recording opportunities, and has to take up a job in a restaurant, playing tunes to diners who aren’t listening. Day by day the degradation grows ever worse, with Szpilman’s father (Frank Finlay) being forced to walk in the gutter, and other mistreatment of increasingly desperate Jews. The Warsaw ghetto is set up, with able-bodied men and women forced to work in degrading positions, until the ghetto is cleared and everyone is sent off to the camps. Szpilman himself is spared by an old friend, now a Jewish policeman (basically a collaborator), who tells him to get away. The young man manages to find shelter in a variety of safe houses, until the end of the war.
The film is far less harrowing than Schindler’s List, though infinitely better in every way. The underlying theme is the strength of the human spirit in the face of terrible adversity, which keeps a kind of optimism in the mind of the viewer. Allied to this is the knowledge that the film is based on a true story, as Szpilman survived as a professional pianist until his death in 2000. Watching this film is to see just how strong and determined some people can be. Director Polanski also went through a similar experience, though in a different ghetto, and also lost most of his family to the death camps. The extras include an excellent behind the scenes documentary, looking at the lives of both Polanski and Szpilman, and this really brings home the true terror and evil of the Nazi’s acts.
Adrian Brody, just short of thirty, gives a magnificent performance, calm and restrained, frequently bewildered by the events going on all around him, but always strong and determined to survive. The supporting actors are also on fine form, and for a true look at life under the Nazi regime, this film is a must.
The film starts with a celebration as a family hear that the UK has announced war with Nazi Germany - "Poland is no longer alone".
After the banning from Jews from cafes, park benches, and the streets after curfew - this is welcome news. The end of the indignity seems to be in sight, but unfortunately this is 1939 and things are about to descend into hell few of us will ever have the misfortune to witness. Forced to move to a designated ghetto where unsanitary conditions quickly develop, the crowded population strive to survive in an unjust community where ridicule and death become a hideous part of life.
Bodies litter the street alongside various waste, people guilty of nothing face the daily terror of never knowing what will happen to them but always aware that they could be singled out and shot in an instant. Families desperately hoping for the best for their children cry at the pointlessness of it all. This is injustice at its criminal worse.
There isn't one example of weak casting in this film, but Adrien Brody is particularly notable for his portrayal of Wladislaw Szpilman; the pianist whose survival of the Holocaust is detailed in this film. There are some scenes where there is very little speech, but the look on Szpilman's face and the manic desperation in his eyes manage to convey more than an entire page of dialogue, and in one scene I really did feel I was watching a shell of a man slowly come alive again at the keys of a piano.
This isn't a short film, and some scenes are very long. This is achieved without them ever feeling overly drawn out, instead you feel that the film respectfully opts to not quickly brush over things. It enables you to start to absorb what happened, to reflect on the fact that this isn't just a film, it actually happened. It might seem bizarre to point that out, although it may seem obvious - for many of us there is a gulf between our reality and the events of the second world war experienced by the Jewish communities of mainland Europe and viewers of The Pianist will (and should) feel numb with the realisation that this occurred to so many people such a relatively short time ago.
A film with this subject matter was always going to be emotional, but given that Polanski himself was a Polish Holocaust survivor, The Pianist becomes especially poignant. Polanski directs with acute first-hand awareness of the incredible urban wasteland landscapes and opens your eyes to the fact that the Holocaust wasn't only a genocide, it was a process of constant humiliation. Bodies in the street are distressing, but seeing senior citizens plucked from a crowd and forced to dance at gun point highlights the disgusting personal side of a stain on history which should never be forgotten.
You don't just watch this film, you become emotionally involved with it. Your stomach is in knots as you have no idea what could happen next and you hope with all your heart that you will witness an act of humility rather than an act of inhumanity.
on 16 February 2005
Director Roman Polanski had much personal history to draw on, when he directed "The Pianist." He spent his own childhood in Poland, and escaped from the Krakow Ghetto, although his mother, and other family members, perished in the Holocaust. Polanski makes this his most personal and powerful film to date, and deservingly won the Academy Award Oscar for Best Director.
"The Pianist" is the agonizing story of Polish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman's survival of the Nazi's destruction of Polish Jewry.
The film begins in 1939, with Szpilman playing Chopin on the piano for Radio Warsaw, as the Germans bomb the city, and finally force him to stop playing. History has documented well what happened in Warsaw over the following two years - the Jewish ghetto was constructed and settled, racial laws were written and enforced, people died of starvation, illness, or Nazi murder. Then the "resettlement" roundups began. Szpilman was waiting at the Umshagplatz to be deported to Treblinka, with his family, when fate seemingly intervened, and he was spared. His survival story is a different kind of hell than others that I have seen or read about. Szpilman watches the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, and subsequent destruction, from the outside, looking in. Usually, accounts of the Jewish uprising are from former fighters, or survivors, who were inside the ghetto at the time. I can only wonder if Szpilman longed to join his fellow Jews and fight the Nazis, rather than remain in his solitary apartment overlooking the ghetto, with his own end unknown.
The story is told from a uniquely unsentimental point of view. I felt at times that Szpilman, brilliantly portrayed by Adrien Brody, had distanced himself from all emotion, except for the periods when he played the piano in his imagination, and listened to music in his head. Perhaps this detachment was the mechanism that allowed him to survive emotionally.
The well-written screenplay, by Ronald Harwood, was adapted from Wladyslaw Szpilman's memoirs published in 1946. During some of the movie's most emotional parts, there are amazing camera shots of snow falling, or leaves blowing across an empty street, or the snow covered ghetto ruins that look like the end of the world, with the only sound - Chopin's piano music. These film takes add emotion to the film, compensate for, and contrast well with Szpilman's emotional isolation.
There is a haunting scene, near the film's end, with Szpilman and a German officer, that still moves me to tears when I think about it.
The film is a remarkable in its sensitivity, and portrayal of one man's struggle to survive. I highly recommend it.
...so says Adrien Brody’s virtuoso pianist, Pole Wladyslaw Szpilman, having suffered (and survived) the devastation of the Warsaw ghetto, and now being confronted by a 'lone Nazi’ (Thomas Kretschmann’s Captain Wilm Hosenfeld) in his country’s rubble-strewn aftermath. Of course, re-visiting this subject is never going to be an easy task given what has gone before (Spielberg’s epic tale and even Kate Winslet’s joke around 'Oscar guarantees’ in Gervais’ Extras), but the real-life tale of pianist Szpilman, with its (relatively novel) idea of the struggling artist and the poignant touch of universal humanity at its conclusion, provides director Roman Polanski with a truly compelling tale which he successfully transforms into a classic of the genre. The film’s sense of realism ('tell it as it was’) is also heightened by its factual basis, with additional 'facts’ added by Polanski himself – particularly incidents of Nazi cruelty – having experienced them first hand during his own family’s similar trauma in Krakow. Further, Pawel Edelman’s cinematography, with its faded colours and resulting 'wasted monochrome’ effect, plus the intercutting of actual footage of Warsaw from the time, has the effect of transporting the viewer back in time.
Of course, as with many such 'national hybrid’ accounts (Spielberg’s included) of these events, casting is always a challenge (plus 'foreigners’ speaking English, although oddly enough here the Poles speak English, whilst the Germans retain their own language). Polanski effectively 'goes British’ here by casting, in addition to his New York-born leading man, veteran Brits Frank Finlay and Maureen Lipman as Wladyslaw’s parents, as well the impressive Ed Stoppard as Wladyslaw’s feisty and resentful brother, Henryk, and Emilia Fox as Wladyslaw’s potential love interest, fellow musician and eventual 'saviour’, Dorota. Poles, on the other hand, (rather unfortunately I feel) are limited to Michal Zebrowski’s Jurek (husband of Dorota) and a whole host of supporting roles, including a cameo for Zbigniew Zamachowski, star of Kieslowski’s Three Colours White (and well as being prominent in 'film technician’ roles, including DoP, Edelman). And whilst Polanski’s cast are (at least) solid throughout, it is via the drama (and realism) of his (and Szpilman’s) story that his film achieves its power – scenes such as the Nazis forcing Wladyslaw’s father to walk in the gutter, executing (matter of factly) Poles for trivial matters or that where Finlay’s father attempts to divide a caramel bar between his entire family to stave off hunger.
Polanski’s film is, in effect, a film of two halves (both equally engaging for me) – the first the harrowing tale of Wladyslaw’s family and their increasing sense of fatalism, and the second (Szpilman having eluded 'transportation’) that of his hiding-out from the Nazis (as their end approaches) and his increasingly frustrated artistic sense (e.g. hearing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata wafting through the rafters in his bolt-hole). This second narrative strand is brilliantly done, setting up his nerve-wracking encounter with Kretschmann’s Captain Hosenfeld (who, perhaps surprisingly, received joint top billing to Brody for his 10-minute cameo) and containing (for me) the film’s highlight scene as Szpilman scales a wall to reveal Warsaw in all its sad devastation.
Although undoubtedly a daunting subject in advance, Polanski acquits himself admirably in this emotionally harrowing account, producing a film that stands up well against Spielberg’s masterpiece and the war trilogy of Pole, Andrzej Wajda.
on 14 June 2005
The Pianist is one of those films that you watch and for some time afterwards there is an ache as you remember the horror and sadness suffered by those portrayed. This could and should be a life-changing film but we too often forget as the ache wears off. This is a terrible waste. Watch this film and do not let the memories fade - in fact, buy it and watch it frequently. If there is one good way for us to realise what we have in life it is to see such films as this.
Adrien Brody goes way beyond a performance and the film way beyond a movie. It is a masterpiece. I will never forget it.
on 10 June 2008
The Pianist is the true story of the struggle to survive the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto of Polish Jewish musician Wladyslaw Szpilman.
It tells how he survived against the odds , hiding in various parts of the city , before his life was saved by a German officer , who despised the Nazis brutality and genocide , a true righteous gentile , Captain Wilm Hosenfeld.
Unlike many personal holocaust accounts , which are of concentration and death camps , this one is an account of life and death in the Warsaw ghetto.
The movie portrays life and death in the ghetto : the disease , the starvation and the Nazi mass murders of hundreds of thousands of men , women and children. The imagery of the ghetto is brough to life, with heartrending scenes of the Jews being herded into and out of the ghetto and of Nazi brutality. REcreated scenes, will stay with the viewer, like a young woman being shot in the head for asking the Nazi guard where the Nazis are taking them, a mother holding a small boy who is dying of thirst, and begging for water for her child.
A little girl, holding an empty bird cage, and crying because she cannot find her family.
Roman Polanski has showed his flare for directing once again, and brilliant acting by Adrien Brody as Wladyslaw Szpilman, Emilia Fox as his gentile female friend Dorota, and Thomas Kretschmann as Captain Wilm Hosenfeld.
A story of one man's quest for survival, among the cruel genocide of millions.
on 12 July 2011
I never thought I would ever see such a wonderful film again,as there is so many disappointing films around that have received good reviews.This would appeal to anyone who is sensitive,musical and compassionate by nature ~~ as we see the Jewish families stripped of everything they have and hold dear to their hearts,their family life destroyed,their homes taken away,and then herded into walled in ghettos to die of starvation and disease.Many are transported to the death camps in trains,thrown in to the carriages as if they were rabid animals..
The story begins with the full horror of the Nazi takeover in Warsaw."Oh Warsaw,what did they do to you?" ~~ the City of endless tears!!
I still cannot fathom out why intelligent and cultured German people joined the Nazi regime in their droves.What power Hitler had over the Germans is impossible for me,after all these years,to grasp and come to terms with.How could anyone with an ounce of human compassion stand aside and watch the mass cruelty without even trying to stop it?I would have preferred to die with the Jews.
I will not spoil the story anymore for prospective buyers,but I can promise the ones that do buy this,you will not be disappointed and you will want to see the film again and again.Just as a good book can be read many times and still hold the interest then so with this masterpiece.
on 8 February 2009
I don't like watching movies about the Shoah, because the subject matter is so painful it leaves me feel depressed for days on end. So I braced myself when I decided to watch THE PIANIST. This film, however, left me with a completely different sort of feeling. Although it tells about the Nazi horrors, it also shows us how man's love for beauty and his refusal to give up his dream can overcome inhumaneness . This story is about hope. About hope and the creative forces that fuel it. Also about the powers of art and beauty, which can defeat even the worst horrors and stir the fundamental goodness in man, no matter how much it has been repressed or numbed by politics, blind nationalism, or ambition for ambition's sake. THE PIANIST is claustrophobic, honest, accurate, visually splendid, with the colors and lighting perfectly chosen to convey the gloomy and menacing atmosphere. All acting is first-rate, with a real tour de force by Adrien Brody, whose quiet, delicate performance keeps haunting you long afterward. Pure emotion, brought in a realistic, mature way. Congratulations, Mr. Polanski, this is work of a perfectionist, one of your best. Definitely a must-see, and for true film lovers, a must-have!
on 26 January 2010
This is a wonderful movie. The acting, storyline and imagery are excellent and the tone very down-to-earth. It gives a feeling of what life might really have been like in the Warsaw ghetto, and is particularly moving because the contrivance and schmaltz that one often encounters in movies are missing.
The only drawback is with the DVD (Region 2, distributed by Optimum Home Entertainment). Although three "extras" are listed on the box ('Story of survival' documentary, 'Making of' featurette, Trailer), the 'Story of survival' documentary is missing.