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The Pianist
UK, Germany, France, Poland
Drama, Biography, History, War
IMDB rating:
Roman Polanski
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
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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What did this pianist really do besides save himself??
I'm not going to say that this isn't a well made movie. The acting and directing are all well done. The film moved me emotionally, but then just about any film good or bad that shows German atrocities during the holocaust can pretty much do that.

My problem is this...

With thousands of interesting stories from Holocaust survivors, why was THIS story chosen to be made into a movie?? I really don't see what this man really did other then exercise self-preservation, as anyone else would have done in a similiar situation. He doesn't fight the germans like some Jews did (with the exception of hiding a few guns) he doesn't save any Jews like Oscar Schindler did, he is never even sent to a concentration camp. Quite frankly, despite the fact that he was in hiding, he actually had it pretty smooth compared to most Jews in Europe during that time. In fact he had it easier than most German, Russian, French, British or American soldiers did.

Again, this movie is well made, but I just don't see why it is being praised like it is. I didn't learn anything new about the holocaust or see ANYTHING that I haven't already seen done just as well in other holocaust movies. In fact I can name 5 other holocaust films off the top of my head that are based on true stories that are about more than just self-preservation.

It's a noble movie but there are much better films on this subject.
How courage and hope prevails in the face of adversity
Unfortunately, my review contains a spoiler. The Pianist took place when people were being killed because of their nationality, and it tells the story of how Germany carried out the hatred felt toward the Jews almost like Hiltler did in The Holocaust. It is amazing to think of how Roman Polanski must have felt as he produced this film due to the fact that he actually experienced some of the same horrors that are seen in this film. While viewing The Pianist, I got to feel the emotional pain and turmoil that Wladyslaw Szpilman played by Adrien Brody felt as he experienced the worst time of his life. The look of total despair, anguish and pain that grips the face of Wladyslaw throughout the movie makes it hard not to have empathy for his character. The film depicts the life of a man who has a passion for playing the piano watches his life unravel before him. Even though Wladyslaw was faced with various obstacles and life changing experiences he never lost his love for playing the piano. As Wladyslaw faces life's uncertainties, he can never forget his days of playing the piano. It is only through courage, endurance and tenacity that Wladyslaw Szpilman is able to become victorious against all odds. The heroic gestures of people willing to risk their own lives in hopes of saving someone else are the backbone of this gruesome film that takes place in Poland during a period when wars were on the rise. Some of the same social injustices that were prevalent back in the early 1900's still take place in various cultures around the world today which makes The Pianist such a magnificent film. People can relate to the different aspects of the film because of the humanness it portrays. The angle in which Adrien Brody's face was shot as he faced the worst years of his life when everyone and everything around him was becoming a figment of his imagination allowed me to sympathize and connect with the desolation and anguish he must have felt in the later part of his life. The lighting used to display Wladyslaw's fingers as he played his beloved piano allowed me to focus on how passionately he felt about what he does as he delicately strokes each key of the piano with such grace and poise. The piano that Wladyslaw loved so much helped his life gain new meaning as he triumphed over the agony and despair he endured in his life with great courage.
Very disturbed
I give this movie a 9. Now, perhaps it is because TP zoomed in on the struggles of one man instead of a nation, I found myself so disturbed I could not sleep. I have watched "Shindlers List"5-6 times, but never was so shaken up emotionally or physically as I was when I watched The Pianist. Oh I saw it once, and that was enough for me. A wonderful movie, so sad, yet exhilarating at the end watching him play the piano with the sympthomy. A wonderful movie of the help of a few for one man, his dark hellish life during this time, yet living through it, a changed man, with raised scars that I am sure criss-crossed in and on his heart. Once was enough for me.. but am glad I finally saw the movie.
It's an official decree, no Jews allowed in the parks.
I have watched a lot of WWII films, but this is at the top of the list.

Don't take my word for it, it won three Oscars, and should have won Best Picture; it did win Best Picture at the BAFTA awards, along with a Best Director for Roman Polanski (Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby). This is Polanski's finest film by far.

Adrien Brody was magnificent, and his performance made you feel you were right there with him.

It wasn't a pretty picture, the outstanding cinematography notwithstanding. Bodies lie in the streets, and people just passed them by. People were shot for asking a simple question. A man was so hungry that when his attempt to steal a woman's soup resulted in it falling to the ground, he fell to the ground and lapped it up.

Amidst all the carnage and deprivation, Wladyslaw Szpilman (Brody) managed to survive until the end. An amazing story.
Unbelievably Good!
I finally got to see this film. I thought I would be bored with it, and I am a little disgusted with Polanski as a person. I know, I shouldn't let my personal feelings about actors, directors, or Hollywood in general effect how I view a film, but it does sometimes. That didn't happen here.

Not only is the acting amazing, but the cinematography, the realistic sets, the physical appearance of Brody, the cruelty and disregard by the Nazis--it all made me feel like I was actually there. I was especially impressed with the technique of allowing us to see through the eyes of Szpilman. At times, I felt like I could feel his heartbeat and fear. It was so palpable that my wife couldn't watch the entire film. She had to leave because of the overwhelming emotions she was feeling.

It is so engaging. I highly recommend it.
Film and Music, Pain and Fire
Spoilers herein.

Nearly any film is for me a double experience: the watching and the post-coital rumination. That second phase can make the experience worthwhile even when the film itself is ordinary or poorly done.

But it works the other way as well, especially when a film is designed for discussion: the film delivered with so many opinions that themselves are ordinary or poorly done. This film comes so charged. Szpilman wasn't `Jewish enough' to be the center of an important holocaust film, goes the most ordinary and loudest of them. I suppose there are some things about the commingling of descriptive art and definitive life to be said there. But one likes to have more freedom in post-film thoughts and that whole topic is dominated by the sorts of reflexive responses manipulated by film.

There's a second prepackaged topic concerning whether `Schindler' was better or `worse.' I don't consider Spielberg's film a holocaust film at all: he lives in a happy world, where justice and right (and lots of other happy values) always triumph. His observations are always external. His goal is always to tell a story, a stance that furthers the distance between his films and reality. Polanski's project has no story at all, merely a life of accidents. His camera is within the artist's personal space. His own mannerisms are Eastern European and depressed, congruent with what he shows. (Speilberg's Schindler really did have the silk unctuousness of the East, but as observed from California.) So I credit Polanski's vision as having more historical credibility than Speilberg's, knowing that despite the best efforts of us all to avoid having practical history made by the movie marketplace.

(One exception, where Polanksi is offensively theatrical: when Szpliman runs from the destroyed hospital, he faces a street of desolation as far as one can see, `High Noon'-wise.)

Much more interesting to my mind is the portrayal of an artist. Polanski has always been deeply self-referential in his work: always there is an examination of the artist within the art. And I make a minor hobby out of collecting film experiences that do this with music and mathematics because I have some personal experience to work with.

For those who don't know: Poland‘s pride is Chopin, who invented a relationship to the piano that not only defined modernity but reinvented everything about musical performance. (Film would follow this lead in 1941.) Chopin built pieces designed to be bent in performance, designed with empty rooms that a pianist could explore. Unlike, Bach for instance, where the magic of the performance was in attuning to Bach and his intent, the performer of Chopin really could bring his own soul to parity with God. Szpliman was a strong pianist, and therefore more than a national character, instead a reflection of the Polish heart.

Here, we watch this man compromise his own pride, eschew his religion, run away from every opportunity for dignity in order to keep his hands warm to play another day; and not just play, but play on the radio for Poles. So during this painful journey, we assume what we are meant to in films about tortured artists: that the pain we are watching will be transmuted by this man into great art that will lift us all. His own personal denigration - what is done to him and the denigrating choices he makes - are worth it overall.

This is where the fatal pessimism of Polanski stops, because he doesn't let us know the musical truth. This is not Szpilman‘s playing of course, but not much unlike him. Szpilman was a `safe' player, one who never had the strength or desire to add much to Chopin. That's why he was on the radio: his `interpretations' were unchallenging and palatable. But he would never have been considered an artist of note at all if he had not survived the perfect brutality of the Germans, whose own music, though sentimental was constrained in ways that Chopin's never was. The payoff is supposed to be that after his trials, the artist is now - theoretically - capable of expressing the pain and yearning of the world. That we are meant to so think is clear from the end, where he plays with the glow of Dreyfuss from `Music of the Heart.'

Ah, but not so. The sound we actually hear throughout is by Olejniczak, a similarly ordinary man. Szpilman did not in fact come through a better artist, but much worse: a meek pianist. `Shellshocked,' postwar contemporaries would say.

Contrast this with Artur Rubinstein. Jewish Pole of the previous generation, and the first giant to explore Chopin's rubato. He had his own dark nights, but not because the world was inhospitable. Listen to his recordings (freely available) compared to Szpilman‘s (hard to get) or even Olejniczak‘s on the soundtrack. These are two different universes. One is merely pleasant, the other life-altering.

Polanski has made some great films (including the under-appreciated `Ninth Gate'), and his thinking through of the intellectual reach of a project is extensive but he has ultimately let us down here. Implicit in much of modern Jewishness is the triumph of enrichment of the people through their tribulation. Perhaps that is true, but this film undermines the idea when selecting Szpilman as metaphor.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 4: Worth watching.
"The Pianist" was a breath of fresh air for me. It has been a long time since I've seen a film this refreshing. I regret not seeing it sooner and if you haven't seen it, I recommend doing so.

Painting a ultra-realistic portrait of one man's life during the darkest period in the 20th century, Polanski masterfully and easily shows what he can do with the right kind of brush… I have always enjoyed his films; "Rosemary's Baby" being one of my all time favorite movies. But "The Pianist" is very different. It is quite serious and disturbing while not being gratuitous. The violence shown here is very sickening but it is never overly graphic. It is not exploitative, as it well shouldn't be. It is heart wrenching to say the least. Adrien Brody confidently commands the respect of the viewer in what has to be the role of his career. He definitely deserved the Oscar he got for this one.

In short, every human being alive should see this film. It is unbiased, extremely effective and completely genuine. I never doubted for a moment that Roman's heart wasn't in it. Totally timeless and classic. See it!!!

10 out of 10, kids.
Stupendous story told through an equally impressive film.
That first scene where Wladyslaw Szpilman (Brody) plays in the recording suite, in Warsaw, for the Polish radio station sums up not only the entire film but Szpilman's dedication and attitude towards his music and his ability to play music. He is sitting there, live on air, as bombs rain down on the city before one hits the building he is in. People are starting to panic behind a soundproof window but it is a suspenseful panic because whilst we in the studio can see the panic and stress the disc jockey is going through, we are tantalisingly put on hold in terms of the horror of the attack. Then a bomb hits the studio room we're in and we wake up to what's happening, as does Szpilman. He must stop playing after previously continuing.

The next time Szpilman plays the piano in a war zone where his life is threatened will be the crescendo for not only the Second World Wartime journey of horror Szpilman must endure, but also for the last time danger is that close to him as is a piano. There are scenes in the film where he is so close to a piano and yet playing it would result in his quick demise; but he is strong enough and powerful enough to be able to remember the music and play on through his mind – that adds extra importance to that near-the-end wartime scene when he must play with 'danger' watching on.

The film begins and ends in Poland, during the Second World War and we are taken through the various stages of horror imposed by the invading Nazi Germans during their assault on most of mainland Europe. The film's opening third acts not too much like a documentary that might shovel the message: "The Germans were evil people" down our throats and not too much like an over the top experimental art film. I read that the film is European produced which should come as no surprise because its aesthetic is very much that of realism, the dominant European aesthetic. So we learn of one family's struggle through the days of the Nazi rule and the film presents us with a hierarchy of Nazi invoked violence. There are the initial scenes of humiliation as a man must walk in the gutter for the crime of being Jewish but there is also the equally awkward to watch as I'm sure it was to shoot scene at a cross roads when Jewish strangers must dance together. From here, the levels are cranked up further and further and it's not long before stone cold violence is being presented to us.

But The Pianist is much more than a realistic take on Polish struggles at this time with a few scenes inter-cut to show some atrocity. The film is a breath of fresh air and suggest to me that Roman Polanski has viewed previous Second World War film efforts and corrected them where he thinks corrections should be made. Not a fan of Saving Private Ryan for its lack of mentioning other Allies? Well, Polanski takes time out here for his characters to mention the British and the French over the radio they listen to. Squeamish enough to look away from heavy violence in Second World War films but maintain an interest in the subject anyway? Well here, Polanski shoots his action and his violence in such a way that just these scenes alone go a long way in helping label him an 'auteur'.

These scenes and shots are littered throughout the film and contain a certain point of view thinking behind them. For instance, when later on in the film there is guerrilla fighting between Germans and ghetto inhabitants, we always see the action from Szpilman's perspective that is to say the camera never cuts to ground level to show the violence or to try and sell it as entertainment. All we know is that one side is over there, one is over here and they fight; another touch being that for most of the time we do not see the rebels or where they shoot from but we do hear the gunfire. Likewise, when a German soldier is hit the camera never cuts to that level to confirm us the kill – everything is done in point of view format from the window and is kept that way. This gives a scene when Szpilman is actually on the ground level and close to a corpse of a woman he saw get shot a few days ago an extra bite because now we are closer to the kill, it is our first proper look at the result of a gunfight that has been and gone – our conscience and awareness catches up with us.

And this tactic is used by Polanski more than once. When a crippled Jew is thrown from his balcony, we see it from the Szpilman's window but when Jews are executed by way of the gun, we are helplessly trapped on that ground level and must witness the atrocity, partly because Szpilman is not there watching from afar in his home or from a window. The added disturbance for these kills is that the cripple cannot defend himself and the fact the officer must reload his gun – also notice how each Jew lying down has their own way of dealing with the inevitable: some keep their face down on the floor but others look ahead giving everything added tragedy. The Pianist works on many levels of storytelling and informs as well as shocks without relying on neatly plotted stories – it is a war fought between superpowers told from the point of view of someone who is not a superpower, and the result is brilliant.
A Touch of Realism
"The Pianist", I know it from my friend who suggest me to watch this movie. At the beginning, and from the title, I think this movie will give me such a nice experience of music composed in every scene. You know, I expect there are so much soundtrack from classic masterpiece and everything will be connected with music. The very first shot is some scene with piano-beat-rhythm. Suddenly, a great shot from tank try to break the whole building and hurt the main character of the movie. Just, what a great opening for such a reality-based-movie.

The overcoming story just a very real experience from Wladyslaw Szpilman himself, and some from Roman Polanski, the director. Every detail of each screen is from an actual event, and the movie is not exaggerating the fact. Like action movie that will expose one or two climax scenes, but this movie consistent with the fact. Some people may think this movie little bit boring, but actually that is the beauty of a realist movie, a realist movie. It is not a beauty of comedy or action, just the history way.

With a personal approach, this movie is nothing but a great deal of cinema experience. A war-view from an innocent and humble man, who try to survive in the era of crisis. The view, however, is like "Grave of the Fireflies", but the core of the movie is very different. There are sort of soul-power that will make Szpilman keep living, even in the starvation. And this kind of power make Szpilman keep playing his passion as a pianist.

But, overall this is a superb movie, not complicated, and enjoyable. Above all, as I always said, it is very realist.
Outstanding and Outspoken
I won't spoil the movie, but this movie isn't afraid to make a point or get a message across. It hits hard emotionally and I recommend it to anyone who hasn't seen it yet. I believe that anyone who hasn't seen it should, but it isn't for everyone. The rating is correct, but like I said earlier I won't spoil the movie. This movie is excellent at shocking and getting a point across. It portrays a story and struggle in a way that words cannot say without spoiling the movie. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, but I will not say if I cried or not since that might be a spoiler. This is a must-watch, but it isn't for the squeamish or those who are not ready for a tough message. I cannot continue this review without spoiling the movie, so you go out and watch the movie before reading anymore reviews.
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