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Customer Review

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An honest account, deserves to be seen., 31 July 2004
This review is from: The Pianist (2 Disc Special Edition) [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
I've just seen this film rather belatedly, having been inspired to do so after reading the book on which it it based, and also Norman Davies' history of the Warsaw Rising - 'Rising 44'.
The film is a worthy attempt to be true to the book and to history. Those who criticize it for a lack of overt emotion or heroism should read the book(s). Polanski, within the constraints of making a commercially viable film, has tried hard to portray not just the factual account of the book but also its emotional content, or lack of it. Spilman is not a conventional hero. We do not see him rallying the resistance movements, standing up to the Nazis, winning the girl and riding off into the sunset. There are no fictions in which all Jews are virtuous and in which heroes and villains get their just deserts. Spilman's story is one of dependence on others for most of the time, and his (ultimately triumphant) instinct for survival often leads him to stay put and do nothing rather than to seek adventures amidst the battles for Warsaw. (Norman Davies complains that the film conflates the Ghetto Rising of 1943 with the Warsaw Rising of 1944, but I did not find this to be the case.)
The obvious comparison is with 'Schindler's List'. This is a lower key film in every respect. The horror is less horrific. It is less emotional, less lyrical and less expansive. The battle and crowd scenes are none too convincing, perhaps due to budgetary constraints. And the passage of long periods time is not conveyed to well, though how Polanski could have done justice to this is beyone me. But 'The Pianist' has its moments. The scenes in which Spilman first emerges from his hiding place into the ruins of a totally destroyed Warsaw, and in which he first meets and plays the piano for his German saviour Wilm Hosenfeld are unforgettable.
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