Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Pianist (2002)

Directed By: Roman Polanski

Rating: R

Runtime: 150 minutes

"The Pianist" is a war drama based on the memoir Death of a City, accounting the life story of jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman. The film's success took it far in the critic's circle, with Academy Award winners receiving Oscars for Best Director (Roman Polanski), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ronald Harwood), and Best Actor (Adrien Brody). 

If you have any inclination in learning about the past, this is a film that you will not want to pass up. During World War II, the Germans invaded Poland, taking over the capital city of Warsaw. During this time, the jews were separated from the poles as Hitler decreed new rules that progressively took away not only the rights of jews, but their humanity as well. 

This is the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, played by Adrien Brody. A jewish pianist from a well-to-do family, we see Szpilman's life transform as the German army takes over. How did life change for Szpilman and the other jews? He was taken from his home and moved to the Warsaw ghetto, where work and food were scarce. The new rules set forth by the Germans made it impossible to claim ownership of anything and the ability to hold onto or save any money was a lost cause. Entire families were gunned down, children laid dead in the streets, and families struggled to stay together because that was all they had in the end. 

At one point in the film, Szpilman is separated from his family as they are forced to board a train headed to one of many Nazi concentration camps. Szpilman never sees them again and we can only imagine their terrifying fate. Alone, hiding throughout Warsaw, Szpilman endures a hardship unlike anything I can imagine, for it lasts over ten years time.

There was one scene in particular that will remain brandished in my mind. As Szpilman and his family are waiting to be transferred to the trains, an old man speaks about the horrible truth that awaits them - they're all going to die. He talks about rising up against the Nazis, for surely their numbers outweighed those of the Germans. But no action is taken and we think about the old man's words. Why not fight back? These soldiers were the ones who killed their friends and family, beat them, swore at them, took away their rights, took away their livelihood and looked upon them as the scum of the Earth. After all this... what do you do when there's no fight left in you - when all you can focus on is your survival? This is the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman.

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