Sunday, January 22, 2012
"The Pianist:" Brutality and Beauty
This is a brutal, magnificent movie. It speaks of the human spirit and its struggle to survive. Based largely on the true story of classical pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman, it gives witness to the life of gifted Polish pianist, a Jew, who managed to survive in Warsaw during World War II while hundreds of thousands of Jews were exterminated in death camps. Szpilman is portrayed by actor Adrien Brody, then 29, who won an Academy Award for his work.
Szpilman is saved from death by sheer chance and through the help of the Polish resistance. Sustaining him is the music he makes, the music he hears and the music in his imagination.
In the last 40 minutes of this movie, Szpilman appears to be the only human being living in a ruined Warsaw. The soldiers have long lost their humanity. Warsaw looks like a city at the edge of time as we watch Szpilman make his way, sometimes crawling, often frantic through abandoned and bombed apartments in search of food and in a frenetic effort to elude soldiers. Toward the end of the film, starving, he spends what seems like days trying to open a can of pickles.
Polish-French director Roman Polanski, who directed this masterpiece, is himself a Holocaust survivor who lost his mother in the death camps. He discovered Szpilman's story when the man's autobiography, suppressed by the Communists, was republished in the 1990s. After seeing this movie, I now want to read Szpilman's own words. This movie, however, is a true gift and well worth viewing or re-viewing.