The Pianist

In World War II, Wladyslaw Szpilman successfully remained alive within the dilapidated Warsaw ghetto. Szpilman was a popular pianist, and was actually playing on Polish radio when the Nazis destroyed the building he was in. The Pianist, adapted from Szpilman's autobiography, is an inspiring movie that caught the eye of Roman Polanski, himself a survivor of World War II. Polanski was able to bring a very human perspective to Szpilman's story, enough so to win the Palme D'Or (Best Film) at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. In fact, The Pianist is the type of films sure to appeal to critics and attract tons of nominations at the various award shows.

This is a good film for Polanski (The Ninth Gate, Death and the Maiden), who has been mired in mediocrity for an awfully long time. The emotion that he is able to put forth along with screenwriter Ron Harwood (Taking Sides, Garderober) clearly shows itself in the movie, which is a moving tale of survival. Szpilman (Adrien Brody, The Affair of the Necklace, Harrison's Flowers) went from an accomplished famous pianist to nothing at the hands of the Nazis. Thanks to the aid of a series of friends and strangers, Szpilman was able to successfully move around from place to place, hiding out for the duration of the War. The Pianist follows the course of the War and tracks Szpilman's progress as he moves from location to location.

Brody's transformation is astonishing. As an actor, he is the type of person that immerses himself into any role he takes. Here, he lost a startling amount of weight to convincingly portray Szpilman in the later years of World War II. His most memorable scene is also one of the most memorable scenes in The Pianist, when Szpilman comes across a piano. At this point, he has not played a piano for a couple of years, and playing this one could mean his death since he is in hiding. Thomas Kretschmann (U-571, Blade II) appears late in the film and plays a small but pivotal role also. The Pianist focuses almost completely on Szpilman, and because of this it may seem to drag in some places (especially due to the long running time). Polanski is doing this to give a full picture of what Szpilman went through, and it makes his ultimate survival all the more inspiring.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
2 hours, 28 minutes, Rated R for violence and brief strong language.

Back to Movies