Polanski’s The Pianist (2002)

Of all the Holocaust movies I have seen so far The Pianist is my favourite. It doesn’t concentrate on life in the camps but, based on a true account, it depicts the survival story of a famous Polish Jewish pianist and focuses on life in the Warsaw ghetto.

The movie begins before the Jews of Warsaw are sent to the ghetto. The situation for them gets worse daily. They are forbidden to enter certain restaurants, to sit on park benches, to keep their money or their shops. They receive far less food than the other Poles. They already struggle hard before they are all compressed into a confined area in the Warsaw ghetto. Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody) who was a successful musician before the war, sees himself degraded, like so many others. Together with his parents, his brother and sisters they move from their nice roomy apartment into an old shabby one-bedroom place in the ghetto. To make a living they sell their books or smuggle stuff. They refuse to join the Polish police even though one of their friends has joined them and would help them to be accepted as well. Both brothers are of high moral integrity and nothing would make them betray their convictions.

When the day arrives and the people of the ghetto are sent to Treblinka, Wladyslaw escapes and remains on his own in the empty ghetto. If it wasn’t for the help of some courageous Poles he would be dead within a week or two. Either because they would have caught him or because he would have starved.

What follows until the end of the war is an unspeakable ordeal. He has to change his hiding place often, he watches the uprising from a window on the German side and when Warsaw is finally bombed he goes on living in the ruins until the day he is found by a German officer. This part is the best in the movie. It balances the image of the evil German. The officer Wladyslaw meets (played by Thomas Kretschmann) is not only fond of music but war-weary to the extreme. He clearly fought for a cause he didn’t believe in.

Another tragic element in this movie is how hope is crushed. When the Allies declare war on Germany, the Poles and Polish Jews are happy and think that the worst is over when in fact the worst was still to come.

I couldn’t think of a better choice for the pianist than Adrien Brody. He is excellent in this movie. If you haven’t seen The Pianist, I’d say it is high time.

Which Holocaust movies do you like?

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10 thoughts on “Polanski’s The Pianist (2002)

  1. TBM says:

    I haven’t seen this one yet. I just watched Sophie’s Choice from my movie list. It is such a beautiful and tragic movie. I also really enjoyed Life is Beautiful but I haven’t seen it in years. When I recover from Sophie’s Choice, it always depresses me, I’ll have to check this movie out.

    • Sophie’s choice is due for a review, I’ve just re-watched it not long ago. Quite harrowing.
      But I still like The Pianist best of all of the Holocaus ones. la vita èbella is good and so are others but not quite like this one, for me.

      • TBM says:

        I’m hoping to get my Sophie’s Choice review done soon. I look forward to reading your review. I’ll have to watch this movie and see which one I prefer.

      • i don’t think Sophie’s Choice is a true story though but this one is. Music Box is very good as well. I reviewed that a while back.

  2. warmoviebuff says:

    I have not seen it (but should). I find it hard to believe it is better than Schindler’s List. I’m not big on Holocaust movies. The only other one I can remember seeing is “Escape from Sobibor”. I recommend it.

    • Thanks for the recommendation, I have not seen it.
      Is it better than Schindler’s List? I liked it better, yes but it’s quite different. Schindler’s List is one of the best. I found this one less manipulative, it doesn’t try pressing your buttons so much, if you know what I mean.

  3. Novroz says:

    I want to see this. When it first came out, I wasnt too interested as I more into blockbuster movies, but time change and now I like movie with great acting more.

    Great review and makes me more curious. Most people said it is Brody best act

  4. […] The Pianist (2002, FR/PL/GE/UK) The true story of a Polish pianist who hid in the Warsaw ghetto.  See my review […]

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