Monday, September 6, 2010

967. The Pianist (2002)

Running Time: 148 minutes
Directed By: Roman Polanski
Written By: Ronald Harwood, from book by Wladyslaw Szpilman
Main Cast: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Ed Stoppard, Emilia Fox


Opting yet again for the Netflix instant queue, I chose a relatively newer movie from the pages of the "1001" and went with Roman Polanski's "The Pianist". Now before I start showering a bit of praise toward a Roman Polanski film, I'll ask that anyone who has shunned Polanski and his work, due to his recent newsworthy tidbits, please refrain from battering me with verbal insults, as I'm merely separating the artist from the man.

The film chronicles the journey of Wladyslaw Szpilman as he tries to survive in a Nazi occupied Warsaw, Poland. We start out by establishing the fact the Szpilman was a classically trained pianist, but Polanski doesn't waste a second of his film and we're quickly into the thick of things as the Germans take over Warsaw. Several decrees are made, the first stating that all of the Jewish population must wear armbands with the Star of David to identify themselves. The following decree has all Jews being forced to repopulate in the Warsaw Ghetto. Once there, they are blocked in by a wall of brick and must face hunger, as Wladyslaw and his family try to fight for their survival and witness the hideous acts of the Nazi regime. One particularly brutal scene shows a troop of Nazi's storming into an apartment building in the Warsaw Ghetto, going to the top floor and forcing a Jewish family to stand. When an elderly man in a wheelchair is unable to comply, they dump him over the balcony to the streets below. They march the rest downstairs, shoot them all and then drive off, running over bodies as their vehicles depart.

Eventually the family is taken away from the Warsaw Ghetto, as the Nazi's prepare to take them to an extermination facility in Treblinka. At the last minute, Wladyslaw is saved by a member of the Jewish police, who also happens to be a family member. At first he is taken back inside the ghetto to become a slave labourer. It is there where he begins to talk with some of the other Jews and learns of plans for a Jewish uprising, where other Jews plan to bring in guns to fight back against the oppression of the Germans. Later, prior to the start of the uprising, Wladyslaw decides to go into hiding outside the ghetto, relying on the help of some friends he had prior to being imprisoned. They set him up in an apartment building, keeping him locked inside and bringing him food whenever the coast is clear. At this point of the film it becomes a tale of survival, and it feels like one man against the world as we follow Wladyslaw.

I'm not real big on history movies, as I'm not a real big history buff and therefore not all that interested. The holocaust, however, does hold some interest for me, if only for the fact that it's unbelievable the amount of horror that was inflicted on the Jewish population during this time. I haven't seen a whole lot of holocaust movies, but I can definitely say that this is the most harrowing one that I've seen and it really makes you stop and think: "My God this stuff actually happened", in fact you can't help but think that. As far as the movie itself goes though, I thought it was excellent and really only have two bad pieces of criticism. The first is that the film does kind of drag, but only very minor and only in a couple spots, nothing major. The other thing that I didn't like and something that actually removed me slightly from the film, was the fact that there wasn't more subtitling. We have a movie that takes place entirely in Warsaw, Poland, as it's being invaded by Germans, and the primary language that the characters are speaking is English. You'd really expect Roman Polanski to be a little more risky and go for the subtitling, I think I would've really been able to let myself be captivated by the environment, had that been the case.

RATING: 8.5/10 Other than my minor quibbles at the end there, you'll get nothing but a big thumbs up from me on "The Pianist" and I'm glad I chose it.


September 6, 2010 2:56pm


  1. Sometimes a films subject make it difficult to comment on the film without seeming to comment on the subject. Just see any message board on IMDb if a film features, say, abortion.
    Fortunatly, here is a film that (I think), lives up to the subject. A hugely effective film which by giving us real people (with admitted flaws), brings home the full impact of the whole holocaust subject, because it is understandable.
    Have you seen Europa Europa?

  2. Haven't seen "Europa Europa" yet, but it's in the book so I'll be getting to it someday.


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