The Pianist (2002)
Reviewed on 2011 June 7
Watching this movie was kind of a dilemma for me; I despise Roman Polanski and what he did. At the same time, I think movies like this are vital in a “never again” way, and to me it’s more about honoring Wladyslaw Szpilman and his survival than what some dirtbag did. I watched it on Starz OnDemand and it’s an excellent movie, but have your Kleenex® ready. It’s painful.
Wladyslaw, or as he asks the pretty ladies to call him, Wladek (Adrien Brody), is an amazingly gifted pianist, perhaps the best in Europe and beyond. His family lives in nice digs in Warsaw, but soon they’re forced by the Nazis into the Warsaw ghetto. Wladek escapes the ghetto before the trains take him to the camps, and now has to hide in a war-battered land. He can barely get a roof over his head to shelter him from the elements, let alone food, and relies on the kindness of other non-Jewish Poles whose disgust with the Nazis outstrips their fear of them. (In one scene that shows the risks posed by his fellow Poles, you see a slovenly civilian woman freaking out when she realizes Wladek is Jewish. All she had to do was keep her mouth shut, but no.) Despite Nazis and wannabes, racketeers, and the world just collapsing around him, Wladek does everything in his power to survive.
Brody took the Best Actor Oscar for his amazing work, making the audience feel as though they were hiding with him. I was emotionally drained after watching it, not only for what Szpilman went through, but for his family and all of anti-Nazi Europe. Schindler’s List addressed the horrors of the war through one man’s efforts to save as many lives as possible, while this was one man’s survival in a home he no longer recognized.
Three chocolate morsels and a toast to life with Polish mead. Just watch it on cable, then read Szpilman’s book.