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The Pianist [2002 film] by Roman Polanski

The Pianist [2002 film] (2002)

by Roman Polanski (Director), Ronald Harwood (Screenwriter)

Other authors: Adrien Brody, Frédéric Chopin (Composer), Pawel Edelman, Frank Finlay, Władysław Szpilman (Original book)

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The Pianist (2002)

Adrien Brody – Wladyslaw Szpilman
Thomas Kretschmann – Captain Wilm Hosenfeld
Emilia Fox – Dorota
Ed Stoppard – Henryk
Maureen Lipman – Mother
Frank Finlay – Father
Jessica Kate Meyer – Halina

Screenplay by Ronald Harwood, based on the book by Wladyslaw Szpilman.
Directed by Roman Polanski.

Universum Film, 2003. Colour. 143 min. 1,85:1 (16:9 anamorph). Dolby Digital 5.1.


This movie is certainly one of the most shattering yet inspiring experiences in my modest career as a cineaste. I remember seeing Adrien Brody at the Oscars ceremony, all smiles and giving Halle Berry a tremendous kiss, and I couldn't believe it was the same man whom I'd seen as the shabby and luckless, yet blessed in more than one sense, Wladyslaw Szpilman in The Pianist. With the possible exception of Schindler's List (1993) and Nuremberg (2000), I find it difficult to think of another movie which conveys the horrors of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust with such almost nauseating vividness.

The movie is a tour de force without a single weak point. From the cast to the soundtrack, from the script to the sets, from the costumes to the direction, it is well-nigh perfect. Adrien Brody in the title role is fabulous. Just look at his face when he plays the C sharp minor nocturne in the end and compare it with same scene in the beginning. This is the whole story, at once heart-rending and heart-warming, told in exactly two glances. The rest of the cast is excellent, but Thomas Kretschman deserves special credit. He makes one of the most memorable examples of the MBE (Marlon Brando Effect). He appears for some 15 or 20 minutes in the end (like Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now, hence the name) and almost steals the show from Adrien Brody; quite an achievement considering the fact that Adrien occupies the screen for most of these almost two and a half hours. Only later did I get their last conversation:

Captain Hosenfeld: What is your name? So I can listen for you.
Wladyslaw Szpilman: My name is Szpilman.
Captain Hosenfeld: Spielmann? That is a good name for a pianist.

It sounds better in German, though. The wordplay is lost in English.

Prospective first viewers must be warned that this movie contains violence, cruelty and devastation almost beyond belief. Roman Polanski was evidently determined to show as graphically as possible what must never happen again. How much the movie deviates from history I do not presume to know. What I do know is that some scenes and images from The Pianist I am still not able to forget and probably never will. To name but one example, towards the end Szpilman, while trying to escape from being burned alive, climbs over a wall. The camera climbs with him and an absolutely surreal landscape of urbane devastation is revealed – and never forgotten.

My only problem with this movie is the heavily abridged version of Chopin's First Ballade in that unforgettable scene when Wladek is caught by the Nazi captain and convinces him beyond reasonable doubt that he is indeed a pianist. The movie is certainly long enough to bear a few minutes more, especially when these are concerned with one of Chopin's finest works and some haunting images of the ruined Warsaw. We hear too little of Wladek at the keyboard anyway. At least the Polonaise Brillante in the end is quite complete and it makes for the greatest end credits I have ever seen (and heard).

That musical quibble aside, The Pianist remains one of the most difficult movies to watch as well as one of those most worth watching and re-watching. Everybody ought to see this film at least once. If there is a story about survival against all odds, about incredible courage and sheer will to survive, this is it. It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s historically accurate. It’s true to life, and that’s what matters. If you find ordinary heroes boring, feel free to return to super heroes. ( )
  Waldstein | Sep 24, 2017 |
  geohistnut | Mar 23, 2017 |
A Jew rides out WWII in Warsaw.

It's well made, but the script is pretty unexceptional. I was bored a lot, and when I wasn't bored (there is a lot to appreciate), I still would rather have been doing something else. This movie is a perfect example of why I hate the phrase "based on a true story." It's not exactly the same holocaust movie that gets made every few years - the first hour or so is, but then it takes a slightly different turn. But still, there's no creativity or craft to this story, and no room for it.

Concept: C
Story: C
Characters: C
Dialog: B
Pacing: C
Cinematography: B
Special effects/design: A
Acting: A
Music: B

Enjoyment: C minus

GPA: 2.7/4 ( )
  comfypants | Feb 3, 2016 |
Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Maureen Lipman, Emilia Fox, Ed Stoppard, Julia Rayner, Jessica Kate Meyer
  lestat25 | Oct 2, 2014 |
NO OF PAGES: 0 SUB CAT I: Holocaust SUB CAT II: SUB CAT III: DESCRIPTION: Rated ""R"". This film contains some limited swearing, graphic violence and depictions of death and is not appropriate for children. There aren?t any words left in our world to describe the horrors of the Holocaust. Only pictures hold us in sufficient sway to convict, humble and revive determination. As World War II fades into the rapidly receding past, those pictures seem to be intensifying, becoming more vivid and gruesome, as if to somehow counteract the dulling effects of the passage of time. But do not ever confuse these images of the past with entertainment. As ""entertainment,"" The Pianist is an utter failure. Indeed, it is grotesque, gory, frightening and obscene. As an instrument of conviction and instruction, however, it parallels the path taken by Saving Private Ryan and Schindler?s List.

Warsaw, 1939. Composer and pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman passionately plays Chopin as the first German bombs spiral downward. He?s a confident man. A proud man. A handsome man. A Jew. Based on his autobiography, The Pianist follows his perilous journey through the Holocaust, peering in on him as everyone in his family is ripped from his embrace and taken to the death camps. It quietly observes as his music-deprived fingers tap at the cold, empty air, vainly searching for the sleek ivory keys that were once such a comfort. The camera recoils (but never blinks) as it watches his friends?and the strangers he calls his own?fall around him in a hail of Nazi bullets. It squints hungrily as it chronicles his course through torture, abuse, starvation, loneliness, fear and despair. It stares helplessly as he withers away (physically and emotionally) to a shell of his former self, waiting for the Russians to finally cross the river.NOTES: Purchased at Costco. SUBTITLE:
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  BeitHallel | Mar 23, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Polanski, RomanDirectorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Harwood, RonaldScreenwritermain authorall editionsconfirmed
Brody, Adriensecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chopin, FrédéricComposersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Edelman, Pawelsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Finlay, Franksecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Szpilman, WładysławOriginal booksecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Based on the memoirs of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jew, who was a brilliant pianist. He watched as his family was shipped off to Nazi labor camps. He managed to escape and lived for years in the ruins of Warsaw, hiding from the Nazis.

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