Title – The Pianist (2002)
Director – Roman Polanski (Rosemary’s Baby)
Cast – Adrien Brody, Ed Stoppard, Frank Finlay, Emilia Fox, Thomas Kretschmann
Plot – The true life tale of Polish based Jew and pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman (Brody) and his family’s ordeal during the Nazi reign of World War 2 where those of a Jewish background were at first thrust into Ghettos and subsequently much worse “labour camps”.
“Thank God, not me. He wants us to survive. Well, that’s what we have to believe”
Review by Eddie on 3/12/2014
Divisive director Roman Polanski has had a polarizing career both behind camera and in a personnel sense yet whatever one may feel about the man or the filmmaker there is little doubt that his most effective and most profound movie is 2002’s The Pianist. A true life war tale of incredible determination and bravery, Polanski’s telling of accomplished Poland pianist and Jew Wladyslaw Szpilman ranks as one of cinemas greatest War set tales thanks to an incredibly realistic feel and a raft of award worthy acting turns.
Justifiably winning Polanski a Best Director Oscar, The Pianist sees the veteran director at his highest creative peak, an artist moulding with his material perfectly to create a vividly alive look into the atrocities that faced Warsaw’s Jewish community and all others of similar creeds during Hitler’s reign of terror. Polanski’s Warsaw is brimming with stark images, from bodies strewn in the streets of the Jewish “ghettos”, snow covered buildings in the harsh reality of a European winter and the strange comforts of an upmarket café as people go hungry outside, it’s unquestionable that the setting of The Pianist is a character unto itself and part of the reason the movie works to the extent it does. It’s interesting also to note how many a time Polanski films some of the movies most confronting scenes (wheelchair bound elders thrown from windows etc.) from a wide shot perspective, giving us the viewers a feeling of witnessing these events from far, powerless to stop what is happening yet not to the extent of being unaffected by it, much like our protagonist Wladyslaw Szpilman.
It would be remiss now with a decade hindsight of Adrien Brody to not remark on the power he displayed here as Szpilman. Brody inhabits Szpilman to an extent you quickly forget it is an actor you are watching, whether he is brave, scared or as time wears on dangerously gaunt, Brody delivers the Oscar winning turn that seemingly set him up for an illustrious career that so far has sadly failed to eventuate. It’s impossible to say with full assurance that it’s Brody’s fault completely that he has failed to get close creatively to what he delivered here in Polanski’s effort or if it is filmmakers that have failed him in their material. Whatever the case may be regarding Brody’s disappointing post-Pianist career there is no taking away from his ageless performance here in an ensemble that all play their parts to perfection from Frank Finlay as Szpilman’s aging father through to Thomas Kretschmann’s small but pivotal role as German captain Wilm Hosenfeld.
A heartening tale of survival, an indictment of the horrors of war and the evil within humanity, The Pianist is not always an easy watch but it’s an important one. A truly stunning tale of the will to survive and a tension filled 2 and a half hours thanks to Polanski’s no fuss professional turn behind camera, this is true life based storytelling at its finest and a worthy film to sit alongside other revered War based film classics.
5 bits of caramel out of 5