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Year:
2002
Country:
UK, Germany, France, Poland
Genre:
Drama, Biography, History, War
IMDB rating:
8.5
Director:
Roman Polanski

 

          The Pianist IMDb    The Pianist Wikipedia    The Pianist Soundtrack

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
The Pianist 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
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
Hope against hope - a persistent, undiminishable light capable within (us)
The Pianist is a beautiful film in spite of the obvious bleak subject: the survival of pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jew during WWII in Warsaw. The film has much warmth - human spirit a-kindled behind it all. Adrien Brody is simply superb (almost surreal) in his true to life portrayal of Szpilman - tenacity and courage personified beyond reproach. We get to see a quieter side of Brody (Eric the war photo-journalist in Elie Chouraqui's "Harrison's Flowers" 2000, Sam the union organizer in Ken Loach's "Bread and Roses" 2000, Ritchie in Spike Lee's "Summer of Sam" 1999) - an impressive, subdued performance all the way. Of course, director Roman Polanski is the sustaining unrelenting force throughout the entire 2 hrs. 28 mins. filmic journey. (In his interview with Charlie Rose on PBS, Brody mentioned that he was expected to lose 30 lbs. in weight to inhabit the lead role's emaciating period, besides prompted to diligently play Chopin on the piano for 6 months, 6 days a week.)

This is much more than just another Holocaust movie (neither "Schindler's List" or "Sophie's Choice"). It's Polanski's own: he gave the film quite an emotionally restrained treatment, almost felt like a documentary with doses of stark photography, not without hints of poetry at times. Have patience, there is action, suspense, and you shall be rewarded towards last part of the film, with teardrops for sure. Actually, occasional smiles and a chuckle were afforded. It is taut human drama complete - even though we know of the outcome, we still worry and startle, relieve and sigh along with Brody's character at his brush with danger throughout the film. The audience is very much in the first person alone and lonely with Szpilman on the screen. And when joy arrives, it's truly touching.

The story is based on Szpilman's book (written 4 years after the war) with screenplay by Ronald Harwood (Cry the Beloved Country 1995, Mandela - TV 1987, The Dresser 1983.) The soundtrack included many Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) piano pieces: Nocturne, Ballade, Prelude, Waltz, Polonaise and Mazurka. Wojciech Kilar provided additional music, and Hervé de Luze on film editing - both have collaborated on Polanski's "Ninth Gate, The" 1999, and "Death and the Maiden" 1994. Cinematography by Pawel Edelman, who was in many film projects by Polish writer-director Andrzej Wajda. Production designer Allan Starski and costume designer Anna Sheppard were involved in Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List" 1993. It's worthwhile to visit the official Web site: Kudos to everyone involved on this project - such integrity and strength, and to R.P. Productions, Focus Features (also distributed Todd Hayne's "Far From Heaven" 2002), and Studio Canal.

Roman Polanski's "The Pianist" truly deserved the Cannes Film Festival 2002 Palme d'Or award for the Best Feature film.
2003-01-19
Amazing
One of the best pictures I have ever seen in my life. Despite the sadness in the story I have seen this piece more times that I can count, because it's so beautiful. Adrien Brody here was at his best, really making us live the story through him. It's a very quiet movie in my opinion, doesn't have many chaotic moments which I think it's fine cause the real objective is to show the war by his perspective, the guy who has to hide away in order to stay alive. Just perfect.
2017-03-15
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
Stoic, haunting tale of survival
The Pianist tells the story of such a man in war time Poland, played by Adrien Brody, who from start to finish sees his life literally getting worse and worse and worse- starts off with new rules from the Nazis, then the stars on the arms, followed by the Warsaw ghetto, and while there he could play in the restaurant, that too soon ended, as the trains arrived and took his family and anyone else he knew away. During this he narrowly escapes, and from then on the film in a sense almost becomes not exactly a holocaust film, but more like a cross of that as the element and the basic structure of something a-la in Cast Away: this includes stretches of scenes showing Brody simply trying to keep out of view of the Germans, either in a small apartment provided by helpful Polish Christians/Jewish resistance, or as a scavenger in the abandoned sections of the ghetto, all while feeling the old rhythm of the piano in his head and fingertips.

This is the kind of magnificent filmmaking that shows a director not only being as true to the story given to him (that of Painist Szpilman, based on his autobiography) but to his past as well- Roman Polanksi faced similar conditions as a boy in the early 40's, and has found the best line to show, never crossed or mis-stepped, in representing the characters and the period. There aren't any hints of tightened suspense, no clues as to where the film could veer to, it just is. The big difference to be seen between a film like this and Schindler's List is not just in the people and situations (Schindler's List was a film about two people, Schindler and Goeth, in the foreground while the Pianist is a total first person tale), yet also in the filmmaking qualities being here surely European. And while the accents on the Polish-Jewish actors sounds a bit too British, that is quite forgivable considering the scope of the project (thank heavens he didn't put in English speaking Germans).

In conclusion, Brody turns in a superb performance, and this indeed is in with Polanski's best, a deserved of 2002's Palme D'Or. Great music too. A+
2003-01-16
Wonderful and Terrible. SPOILER WARNING
Roman Polanski's new movie, "The Pianist" is a truly gripping, devastating, heart-felt, unsentimental piece of work. I urge you, if you have not seen it already, to do so before you read anything more about it (including this review). You need to come to the film cold, as it were, knowing as little as possible in advance, so that its effect will be as powerful as possible. This is what I did. I sat in the cinema, chatting quietly during the ads and trailers, preparing myself mentally for what I expected to be a reasonably harrowing but ultimately uplifting experience. The film began. My initial reaction upon seeing Maureen Lipman and Frank Finlay was a slight smirk and a minor panic: Oh God, brit thesps over-doing it. Nothing is more horrifying than the sight of Brit thesps over-doing it. Or so I thought. Because shortly after this panic there was more to concern me. Firstly, the Brit thesps were not over-doing it at all. They were instead giving subtle, measured, moving performances. How bizarre. Secondly, about ten minutes into the film, a gang of nazis stroll into an apartment and casually drop a man from his wheelchair out over the balcony and onto the street below. This is all shown from the point of view of our heroes in the apartment opposite. It all takes place in one long, agonising, heart-stopping take. The entire cinema gasps in horror. All of a sudden we realise just how grim and unflinching this film is going to be. From then on, things get worse (if that is at all possible) with horror piled upon horror in the most matter-of-fact way. Bodies lie in the street. Citizens of the ghetto bicker with each other over scraps of food, spill the food and then lick it up off the floor in desperation. Nazi thugs (as opposed to all the nazi non-thugs...) force Jews to dance, shoot them in the head whenever they feel like it, drive over their dead bodies, etc. etc. Then, as The Pianist's family is locked into the train carriage never to be seen again (the door slamming shut on their screams) he is alone in this insane world, suddenly forced to survive. He is not a good or bad person. He is certainly not a hero. If anything he is rather selfish and introverted. Which only makes this film more realistic and moving. We find ourselves imagining what it would be like to be in his situation. What would we do? There is no point mourning the loss of loved ones. That won't help anyone. Nor is there any point fighting. The Warsaw uprising begins (the fight scenes here are startlingly believable) and then ends in a rout by the nazis. The Pianist watches from his hiding place several storeys above the city. He is a detached observer rather than a participant. He is, perhaps, even a coward, running away from, rather than confronting the enemy. While working on the building gang he does get involved in helping the resistance, but escapes before the fighting begins. All the time we think: what would I do? We would probably do the same: Hide, run, survive. Defiantly avoiding sentimentality at all points, Polanski is in full command of his material here. Adrien Brody as our "hero" is superb. His transformation from elegant, attractive man about town to shivering, starving, desperate wreck is an amazing performance. Towards the end, as he hangs on to his tin of what? Some sort of fruit? with pathetic determination, he is a terrible vision of a man reduced to almost nothing. But still there is the spark in his eyes, and of course, as luck would have it, there is a piano. Which is what saves him. And there is a coat, which almost gets him killed. "Why the fucking coat?" "Because I'm cold." Note, by the way, that the line is not, "Because I'm f***ing cold" which would have been a nice gag, but fake. "Because I'm cold" is achingly sad and small and true. Like I said, Polanski and his screen-writer (the inestimable Ronald Harwood) are in full command of their material. There is not a single false move, not a single mistake. The film is beautiful and cold and terrible and sad and genuinely great. Unlike that other holocaust movie to which it will no doubt be compared, "Schindler's List", this is not at Oscar-Machine, but a moving and honest portrayal of human cruelty and desperation. It is also, in case you haven't worked it out already, a masterpiece.
2003-02-05
More than just a Movie
How often do you see a movie that is capable of touching your Heart? how often do you see a movie that will occupy your thoughts for a good while? Roman Polanski's "The Pianist" is one of those rare breed of movies that can actually do that. It's undoubtedly one of the most impressive movies you will ever see. From The Solid Direction Of Roman Polanski to the Flawless acting of Adrien Brody This Movie without a doubt can be called a Masterpiece. The Movie is based on The true story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, who in the 1930s was considered one of the most accomplished Pianist. But the movie is not about his fame, Nor his Glory as a pianist. It's About A Polish Jew, who fought against all odds, Faced situations that he never even imagined and Finally Survived by losing almost everything and everyone he loved. It shows not only a tale of horrific surviving, but also the emotions that many people had to face and fight in order to live. It makes you wonder how people who really faced and Fought against those odd and lived, makes you ask yourself what would i do in that situation? The Cast is great, Whether it is a important character like Fox as Dorota or Minor character such as Ronan Vibert as Janina's Husband. But Adrian Broody Truly proved his worth as an actor in this film, i mean he was so into the character that he will make you believe that he really is Szpilman, He lost over 14 kilograms and developed a unusual body language for some scenes, and an actor of his level deserve much more recognition, but it's a fact that people nowadays prefer flash and looks over true art, however if you are one of those who can appreciate a true masterpiece you must have a look at "The Pianist"
2011-05-04
Greatest movie I've ever seen!
This is the best movie that I've ever watched. I definitely recommend you watching this. Adrian Brody, perfect acting. The directors made such a great job, you can enjoy it until the last scene and.... love it until the end. I don't think there will be a better movie coming out.. Go watch this amazing piece of art, you will be satisfied and very happy.
2017-02-21
Masterpiece with the director's personal touch
Roman Polanski's The Pianist" is a film that will either haunt you, make you feel sad, angry, overwhelmed, deeply touched or disturbed, but it will definitely not leave you feeling indifferent. It will play with your emotions and it will smartly and slowly pull you into the ruins of the 1940's Warsaw, Poland.

Although it touches the global theme of the Holokaust, it actually tells a story of an individual, named Vladislaw Szpilman. The director brilliantly displayed simple scenes in front of the viewers. He showed everyday situations and the acts of torture one after another and gradually exhibited the true nature of merciless and cruel Nazis. Once the story has finished, the viewers are left with a magnificent portrayal of the most brutal, darkest and deranged era in human history. And all that through the point of view of the leading character.

*Spoilers* When Poland was invaded by the Nazi Germany in 1939, Szpilman's family knew that there would be some trouble and they could sense danger. However, nothing could prepare them for the events that were about to happen. Nazi soldiers striped the once-prosperous and affluent Jewish population of their properties, homes, money, jobs and finally, they destroyed and took their lives. As Rose said for Jack Dawson in Titanic: He saved me in every way a person can be saved.; something in that style, but with the totally opposite meaning, could be said for the Nazis: They destroyed them in every way people can be destroyed.

The Nazis not only took their lives, but also, before the killings, mocked at everything that meant something to them. Jews were forced to wear David's stars so that they could be recognized at any point. They were not allowed to gather at public places, to go to cafe bars, to walk on sidewalks... Many of them were annihilated just because they were picked on, for no real reason.

Adrien Brody's acting was superb. He walked through the city streets, witnessed horror, executions, starved children and dying old people, and there was nothing he could do. He just walked, day after day, hoping that we would survive for one more day.

And he did survive, but not because he did something extraordinary. He was just lucky and he managed to find himself at a right place at a right time. Brody showed his gradual physical and physical decline: he lost weight, he was barely possible to run away and hide, he got ill and was very close to death. He transformed from an elegant and sleek piano player into a human wreckage. He was full of life while courting a young music player at the beginning of the film and later, he became a lost, hungry, desperate griever who lost his entire family. He was a walking skeleton looking for shelter where he would wither in peace - survival was just a dream in the end. The wonderful flow of events and gradation at its best, once again!

A turning point in the film happens when Szpilman was hiding in an abandoned villa. He was looking for a can opener when he was approached by a German officer. To our and Szpilman's surprise, the officer showed understanding, compassion and his love for music! This wonderfully-played character made a point: that humanity lives within human beings regardless of their nationality and position. The relationship between these two men should be a guide to all human relationships. The officer Hosenfeld was not compassionate because he wanted something in return (although he needed Szpilman's help later in the film) but he was moral, just and humanity was part of him.

If I had to describe this film in only one word, it would be "masterpiece'!!!!
2017-03-03
This is one of the best films I have ever seen
This is one of the best films I have ever seen and what it did to me I cannot describe in words. But in a nutshell, it moved me, made me cry, made me feel like I was in the Polish ghetto in 1940, and ultimately made me kiss the sidewalks as I walked out of the theater and thanked God that I live in the free society that I do.

Roman Polanski has proved that he is a great director with films like Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby but this is his crowning achievement. I think the fact that this won the awards that it did at this years Oscars goes a long way to validate the brilliance of this film. I believe that the Oscar's are rigged for the most part and films and actresses and such win based more on their pedigree or business associations than anything else, so when it won best actor and director and adapted screenplay this year, it tells you that it should have won best picture but the Weinsteins seem to have a spell over everyone, hence a charlatan like Chicago takes top prize. Sorry for the digression here but when you compare a "film" like Chicago to a masterpiece like The Pianist, there really is one clear cut winner. They handed out the statue to the wrong movie.

The Pianist follows up and coming piano player Wlad Spielzman from his days as a local hero to a prisoner of war to his time in the ghettos, surviving only by the kindness of strangers. I think many people have touched on this before but what makes this film so amazing and well crafted is because Spielzman is a man that we can all relate to. He is not a hero, he is not a rebel and he is not a kamikaze type that wants and lusts after revenge. He is a simple man that is doing everything in his power to stay alive. He is a desperate man and fears for his life and wants to stay as low as he can. Only from the succor he receives from others does he manage to live and breathe and eat and hide. And this is how I related to him. If put in his position, how would I react? Exactly the way he did. This is a man that had everything taken from him. His livelihood, his family, his freedom and almost his life. There is no time for heroics here. Adrien Brody embodies the spirit of Spielzman and his win at this years Oscars was one of the happiest moments I have had watching the festivities. His speech was even better but that is a topic for another time.

Ultimately it is his gift of music that perhaps saves his life and the final scene that he has with the German soldier is one of the most emotionally galvanizing scenes I've witnessed. With very little dialogue, it is in the eyes, the face, the mouth and the sounds that chime throughout their tiny space that tell you all you need to know. I think it is this scene that won Brody his Oscar. This is one of the all time great performances.

I think Polanski spoke from the heart here. He has taken a palette of memories and amalgamated them with what he has read and given us one of the best films of our generation and any other. I think The Pianist will go down as one of the best films of this century and when all is said and done, Chicago will be forgotten the way Ordinary People was forgotten and when people talk about the film The Pianist, they will do so with reverence and respect. This is a cinematic masterpiece.

10 out of 10
2017-07-01
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