Ahh… 100 films… I’m done!! I will have a little blog next week reflecting on the entire project – but I am very glad to conclude it with The Pianist, a film that I’ve wanted to see for years but for whatever reason never got around to it. Ever since Adrien Brody won an Oscar for Best Actor for this film and laid a huge kiss on Halle Berry, I’ve been intrigued to say the least.
Brody stars as Władysław Szpilman, a brilliant pianist who performs note-for-note interpretations of classic pieces from Chopin and other artists on Polish radio in the late 1930’s. The film begins with Nazi Germany invading Poland in 1939, and gradually making the lives of Polish Jews a living hell. At first Jewish families are only allowed to have a small amount of money to their names before all Jews are forced to live in a secluded ghetto of Warsaw with little food or means to make a living. As the Nazis become more violent with torture, senseless killings and public degradation, the Jews become more desperate by the day.
After escaping from the trains heading to the concentration camps and seeing his family for perhaps the last time, he is basically a slave in a Jewish construction troop as he smuggles weapons to the slowly growing Jewish uprising against the Nazis. As the years pass and World War II begins, Władysław goes into hiding in Warsaw with the help of Jewish sympathizers, sleeping in tiny nooks behind bookshelves and dreaming of the day when he can finally play piano again. Alone and isolated, Władysław must simply find a way to survive and keep what’s left of his dreams alive as he evades the evil Nazis.
The Pianist is one of the best films I’ve seen all year, mainly due to Brody’s portrayal of Władysław. The latter half of the film relies on a concentrated silent energy as Władysław spends many days alone, observing the horrific conditions of Nazi-occupied Warsaw and simply finding ways to survive-almost similar to Tom Hanks’ portrayal of a man stranded on an island in Castaway but with much more dire circumstances. Brody’s performance is truly iconic , unforgettable, and deserving of its universal praise.
Based on the autobiography of Władysław and directed by Roman Polanski (who actually escaped the holocaust himself), The Pianist is raw, gritty, and feels completely authentic due to an overall stunning reproduction of the era. While some moments are incredibly violent and disturbing, this film holds nothing back along the way. The Pianist is not just a sweeping story of surviving the holocaust, but a journey of the human spirit and its persistence to live and see another day, keeping hope alive by any means necessary.
5 stars out of 5