Directed by Roman Polanski and drawn partly from his own real-life experiences, The Pianist tells the true story of Wladyslaw Szpilman (played by Adrien Brody in an Oscar winning performance), a Jewish pianist who plays for a Warsaw radio station, on the eve of the German invasion of the Polish capital.
We see life for him and his family deteriorate with the German occupation, before taking tragic turns as the Krakow ghetto is established then finally cleaned out as the Nazis put into effect their “solution” to the “Jewish problem”. Whilst Szpilman evades the fate of the labour camps, he endures a terrifying, lonely existence eked out in the ruins of Warsaw, surrounded by German troops and Jew haters everywhere.
The Pianist is a haunting, powerful movie. Essentially a simple tale of survival, Brody puts in a stunning performance as we witness his deterioration, and it's a testament to his acting abilities that the last hour of the film contains little dialogue. Not that it needs it, for it's as much the imagery as the script that instills this piece with power.
Inevitably, comparisons will be made with Spielberg's Schindler's List, but these are different animals entirely. The Pianist doesn't shock in the same way that Spielberg's masterpiece does, but then this is likely down to the fact that Schindler's came first. Even so, The Pianist contains scenes which will still have you asking “Why?” in your mind every time you see an atrocity; and there are disturbing scenes aplenty here.
This is a film that shouldn't be missed. Moving, sad, uplifting, and offering an insight into the depths of human endurance, the almost two and a half hour running time will fly by without you even realising it. Recommended.
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