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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.
Adrien Brody Wladyslaw Szpilman
Thomas Kretschmann Captain Wilm Hosenfeld
Frank Finlay Father
Maureen Lipman Mother
Emilia Fox Dorota
Ed Stoppard Henryk
Julia Rayner Regina
Jessica Kate Meyer Halina
Michal Zebrowski Jurek
Wanja Mues SS Slapping Father
Richard Ridings Mr. Lipa
Nomi Sharron Feather Woman
Anthony Milner Man Waiting to Cross
Lucy Skeaping Street Musician
Roddy Skeaping Street Musician
Ben Harlan Street Musician
Thomas Lawincky Schutzpolizei (as Thomas Lawinky)
Joachim Paul Assböck Schutzpolizei
Roy Smiles Itzak Heller
Paul Bradley Yehuda
Daniel Caltagirone Majorek
Andrzej Blumenfeld Benek
Darian Wawer Child at the Wall
Zbigniew Zamachowski Customer with Coins
Lejb Fogelman Customer with Coins
Detlev von Wangenheim SS Officer
Popeck Rubenstein (as Popek)
Zofia Czerwinska Woman with Soup
Emilio Fernandez The Soup Snatcher
Udo Kroschwald Schultz
Uwe Rathsam SS Shooting the Woman
Joanna Brodzik Woman Shot in the Head
Katarzyna Bargielowska Wailing Woman
Maja Ostaszewska Woman with Child
John Bennett Dr. Ehrlich
Cyril Shaps Mr. Grün
Wojciech Smolarz Boy with Sweets
Lech Mackiewicz Fellow Worker
Ruth Platt Janina Godlewska
Frank-Michael Köbe SS Shooting Benek
Torsten Flach Zig Zag
Peter Rappenglück SS Making a Speech
Ronan Vibert Janina's Husband
Krzysztof Pieczynski Gebczynski
Katarzyna Figura Kittie, neighbour
Valentine Pelka Dorota's Husband
Andrew Tiernan Szalas
Tom Strauss Dr. Luczak
Cezary Kosinski Lednicki
Grzegorz Artman
Adam Bauman
Pawel Burczyk Polish Workman
Zbigniew Dziduch
Marian Dziedziel
Jerzy Góralczyk (as Jerzy Goralczyk)
Jaroslaw Kopaczewski
Patrick Lanagan
Dmitri Leshchenko Russian Soldier (as Dymitr Leszczenko)
Dorota Liliental
Rafal Mohr Schutzpolizei
Andrzej Pieczynski Prisoner
Morgane Polanski Girl
Norbert Rakowski
Piotr Siejka
Weronika Szen
Andrzej Szenajch
Tomasz Tyndyk
Andrzej Walden
Zbigniew Walerys
Maciej Winkler
Andrzej Zielinski
Maurycy Zylber German film crew
Xawery Zylber
Nina Franoszek Polish Woman (uncredited)
Anna Gryszka Woman in ghetto (uncredited)
John Keogh Polish Officer (uncredited)
Ryszard Kluge Jew working on the bulding site (uncredited)
Ireneusz Machnicki SS Officer (uncredited)
Pawel Malaszynski Man in ghetto (uncredited)
Adam Malecki German soldier in the Ghetto (uncredited)
Roman Polanski Jurek (voice) (uncredited)
Axel Prahl German Soldier, rummage bags (uncredited)
Dagmara Sieminska Women in ghetto (uncredited)
Izabella Szolc Women in ghetto (uncredited)
David Szurmiej Man in ghetto (uncredited)
Borys Szyc Young gestapo (uncredited)
Jacek Wolszczak Man in ghetto (uncredited)
Producer: Robert Benmussa,Roman Polanski,Alain Sarde
Writer: Wladyslaw Szpilman,Ronald Harwood
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 the Ghetto of Warsaw, a setting virtually absent from all films inspired on WW2.

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 windows, 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 advantage 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 poetry.

In one of the strongest scenes, towards the end, a German officer forces the 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 music, with the concert at the very end of the film and the opening performance by the pianist at the local radio station (with the sound of bomb explosions in the background) forming an harmonious link between the beginning and end of 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.

User credit 1:1001 movies you must see before you die
User credit 2:994
Storage device:DVD
Imdb rating: 8.5
Musician: Wojciech Kilar
Running time: 150 min
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Last modified: 2008-01-02 12:08:02