Most of us hear the name Roman Polanski and shake our heads, sadly recalling his pitiful 1999 flick The Ninth Gate. This year he has redeemed himself with an adaptation of Wladyslaw Szpilman’s autobiography The Pianist.Szpilman is portrayed by Adrien Brody, who has been nominated for best actor. The movie looks at Warsaw throughout the war, with Szpilman experiencing the progression of increasing restrictions on the Jews.
Szpilman, who was “the greatest pianist in Poland–maybe even the whole world,” is forced to hide after escaping the round-up that deports his family to the labor camps.
During filming, Brody lost over 30 pounds to portray the change in Szpilman over the period of the war.
Szpilman moves from hiding place to hiding place, getting assistance from various gentiles who serve almost as guardian angels, providing food, medical help, and concealment.
He has many close calls, and much time alone. He comforts himself by playing an imaginary piano on tabletops. The changes of the war are shown through the contrast from Szpilman’s fame and frequent live performances on the radio to the torn-down man in hiding, only able to move his fingers around on a wooden tabletop.
The movie rivals Schindler’s List in its detail and close inspection of the life Polish Jews were forced to live. Whereas many Holocaust movies aim to impress upon us the horrors of mass executions, this movie instead focuses on the sly way the Nazis gained control over a city that had been so vibrant.