The Pianist (2002)
"Music was his passion. Survival was his masterpiece."A Polish Jewish musician struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II.
10 out of 10
The Pianist is an account of the true life experience of a Polish pianist
during WW2, in the context of the deportation of the Jewish community to
Ghetto of Warsaw, a setting virtually absent from all films inspired on
Polanski (himself a child survivor of the Krakow and Warsaw ghettos) could
have described in more detail the legendary, desperate fighting of the
Jewish resistance in the ghetto of Warsaw, or the horrific mass
extermination in concentration camps. Instead, the film gains in intensity
by displaying the war from the pianist's own point of view (through
half-opened doors, holes in the walls - with big emphasis on the use of
"point of view shooting" by the cameraman). One cannot help feeling
disturbed by the most enthralling scenes of the film, as the isolated
pianist tries to ensure his survival in the ghetto and ruins of Warsaw,
hiding and fleeing, moving from one bombed house to the next, gradually
becoming a shadow of his former self, hungry and afraid (merit largely
attributed to the extraordinary performance by Adrien Brody, who visibly
loses half of his weight throughout the film).
Does the pianist raise any sympathy from the audience? Not immediately, in
my view. The pianist is more than often a drifting character, almost a
witness of other people's and his own horrors. He seems to float and drift
along the film like a lost feather, with people quickly appearing and
disappearing from his life, some helping generously, others taking
of his quiet despair, always maintaining an almost blank, dispassionate
demeanour. One may even wonder why we should care in the least about this
character. But we do care. That is, I believe, the secret to this film's
In one of the strongest scenes, towards the end, a German officer forces
pianist to play for his life, in an episode that suddenly brings a much
lighter, beautifully poetic shade to the film (this German officer will be
probably compared to Schindler, although his philanthropy does not quite
share the same basis).
This is also a wonderful tribute to Polish artists, through Chopin's
with the concert at the very end of the film and the opening performance
the pianist at the local radio station (with the sound of bomb explosions
the background) forming an harmonious link between the beginning and end
the film (following Polanski's usual story-frame).
Overall, The Pianist is one of the most detailed and shocking accounts of
the treatment of the Jews by the Nazis, with the atmosphere in Warsaw well
captured and believable. Quite possibly, The Pianist will remain in the
history of film-making as the most touching and realistic portraits of the
holocaust ever made.
Polanski's film deserves a strong presence in the 2003 Oscar nominations,
including a nomination for Adrien Brody's amazing performance, Polanski's
sublime direction, best adapted screenplay and, obviously, best picture.
This could be, at last, Polanski's long awaited, triumphal comeback to the
high and mighty Hollywood.