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The Pianist

This 2002 Roman Polanski film is an adaptation of the autobiography of Władysław Szpilman, a Polish Jewish pianist who survived the holocaust.  Because the subject matter is intense, I will not post pictures of any of the action scenes. They are easily available on the Internet if you wish to find them.

Szpilman (Adrien Brody) is forcibly relocated to the Warsaw Ghetto along with his family. While they are being transported to the Treblinka extermination camp, he is unexpectedly saved by one of the Jewish police. What follows is a significant insight into humanity’s will to survive. Szpilman fights starvation, jaundice and depression, not to mention the constant threat of being discovered by the Nazis. He hides in abandoned buildings and secret apartments, eating scraps of whatever he could find. After Warsaw has finally been evacuated, he takes shelter in an abandoned house. There he is discovered by a German officer (Thomas Kretschmann), who takes pity on him and helps Szpilman to survive. At the end credits, we are told that Szpilmann remained in Warsaw and lived until 2000, while the officer who helped him died in a Soviet concentration camp in 1952.

This film was probably one of the most moving ones I’ve ever seen. Most Holocaust films try to temper the violence and brutality that marked the period, out of fear that it might alienate some viewers. This one didn’t even blink. Atrocities committed by German soldiers were shown in graphic (and often bloody) detail. Nothing was held back as an accurate depiction of the horrors perpetrated on Poles and Jews was shown I give director Polanski (himself a Holocaust survivor) enormous credit for that.

Brody also did an amazing job in this one, a film which will forever define his career. Since he was almost never off-screen, any mistakes he made would be noticed instantly by viewers. There were none. The audience also didn’t become bored with seeing his face, or during the times when dialogue was minimal because there was nobody else to talk to. Brody’s eyes expressed everything they needed to at any given moment. This rare talent served him extremely well. Sadness, horror, confusion, fear, anger and even happiness on very rare occasions. Adrien Brody could express the full range of human emotion without needing to say a word. At 29, he became the youngest actor ever to receive the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and he deserved every bit of it. I really can’t say enough about how great his performance was.

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Filed under Drama, Historical, Reviews