Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Pianist

Many movies have been made about the Nazi era and the holocaust. I do not like war movies so much,but still they relate History, or at least one side of it, but I think it is important to watch too, as, beyond entertainment, it is a testimony. And as difficult as it is to watch a Holocaust movie, The Pianist (2002), directed by Roman Polanski and starring Adrian Brody (who got an Oscar for his role), should not be missed.

The film recounts the story of Polish-Jewish pianist  Wladyslaw Szpilman, as he survived in hiding for two and a half years during the Nazi occupation of Poland. When his family is taken away to  concentration camps to be exterminated (it is not explicitely said but one can suspect), he is saved by a policeman he once knew and sent to the ghetto to work. He escapes and rejoins the Polish side, where he is helped by resistants. When this helps disappears he has to keep running to escape German forces, with tremendous difficulties to find shelter, food and water.

Wladek Szpilman: I'm not going anywhere.
Halina: Good. I'm not going anywhere either.
Mother: Don't be ridiculous, we've got to keep together.
Wladek Szpilman: Look, look... If I'm going to die, I prefer to die in my own home. I'm staying put.

Wladek Szpilman: You've got to give me something to do.
Yehuda: You're an artist, Wladek. You do enough.
Wladek Szpilman: I want to help. I want to do something.
Yehuda: You're too well known, Wladek. And you know what? You musicians don't make good conspirators. You're too... too... musical!

Majorek: Germans never use Jewish toilets. They're too clean for them.

Wladek Szpilman: Food is more important than time.

In my book, a good film is one that makes you have a good time. This one, in spite of its accuracy, the realism of some scenes, is depressing. Still, it remains a must – great acting, great script, great filming - but I have to admit on occasion I actually got bored, as some scenes dragged on for too long. The horrors of daily life in Poland during the war are depicted at length and some images are just shocking : children shot in the streets, an old man in a wheelchair thrown through a window, a boy crawling under a wall, getting half way through, then grabbed from the other side and killed; there is a large number of scenes of random, unjustified cruelty. The viewer has to endure long scenes of soldiers torturing Jews, death marches, random on the spot executions.

The main character in this film survives by luck and not really thanks to special skills, so the viewer keeps hoping that no German will just shoot him randomly – that was too much stress for me to enjoy the movie. There is not a single moment of joy, but this is story of this man who survived in spite of terrible odds remains moving. And of course Adrian Brody is just extraordinary, conveying each emotion. So watch it, but not alone, and not on a bad day….

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