Movie: The Pianist (2002)

Classical music in WWII Poland…

Based on the memoir of Władysław Szpilman, a Polish-Jewish pianist in the early 30s, the movie centers on Szpilman family at the beginning of the German invasion in Poland. The movie takes its time by showing the financial/social status of the Szpilmans: from living in a well-off apartment in the beginning to harbouring in a concentration camp; from taking pride on their reputation as respected citizens to clinging on any kinds of work just to keep on living. The movie then reaches its climax when our lead, Wladyslaw, got separated from his family and have to live on his own.

He wander from buildings to ruins just to survive, eating whatever he can get his hand on and counting on anyone’s help just to avoid the terrible fate of his kind. The film even uses Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice popular quote by Shylock to imbued realism (Henryk Szpilman quoted “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” stating how it fit the horrible situation they are in).

The climax, in my opinion, is what makes me fascinated by this Roman Polanski’s directed movie. From the beginning, I was waiting for the narrative to focus on Wladyslaw, but instead, he serves as the second tier through the first half. However that quickly changed once he got separated from his family, and thus rewarding him with the movie’s title.

As Szpilman drifts from one place to another, we clearly can see just how devastating the situation really is. The camera constantly focuses on ruin buildings, fire blazing, empty roads rather than torment and torture scenes which gives a more lasting impact in my opinion. The scene when Spilzman walks among the dead bodies on the ground after his attempt to escape the Nazi’s soldiers was both heartbreaking and cinematically beautiful captured by Polish cinematographer, Pawel Edelman.

Adrien Brody is a fantastic actor. His persona, his profound eyes just staring into the camera with wearisome and total sadness is enough to make anyone moved by an overwhelm feeling. He is just that good and that Oscar award was well-deserved. I find myself lost in his journey and keep on imagining all the sorrows and madness he must have felt.

I also find the film’s idea rather challenging and unique that it concentrates on the journey of Spilzman outside the concentration camps. While other Holocaust movies centers on what’s happening inside the horrific Nazis camps. The Pianist chose to show the viewers the destroyed parts of the country, as well as the loneliness, despair and agony Spilzman faced while living by himself totally secluded from the outside world.

Where is the music bit in all of this you asked? The movie ends with Władysław Szpilman performing Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp minor to a prestige crowd. However, The Pianist himself emerged to the scene when Szpilman played a rather haunting piece also by Chopin’s Ballade in G minor in an abandoned building next to a German soldier.


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