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ASSAM UNIVERSITY, SILCHAR

ABANINDRANATH TAGORE SCHOOL OF CREATIVE ARTS


AND COMMUNICATION

A Movie Review on THE PIANIST directed by Roman Polanski

SUBMITTED TO: PROF. PAROMITA DAS

SUBMITTED BY: SUPRIYA PHUKON


ROLL NO. : 10
SUBJECT: FILM STUDIES (302)

THE PIANIST (2002)


By Roman Polanski
Movie Review

About the director:


Born as Raimund Polanski, on August 18, 1933, in Paris, director Roman Polanski moved to
Hollywood in 1968, making his American film debut with the classic Rosemary's Baby. In
1969, Polanski's pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, was brutally murdered by members of the
Charles Manson cult, and in 1977 Polanski was indicted on six criminal counts for having
sexual relations with a minor.
Polanski travelled to Europe and eventually settled in Paris, where he directed the critically
acclaimed film Tess (1979)an adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles.
Throughout the 1980s, he concentrated on stage acting, appearing in productions of Amadeus
(1981) and Metamorphosis (1988).
Polanski returned to film work with the intense thriller Frantic (1988), starring Harrison Ford
and Betty Buckley, followed by the erotic drama Bitter Moon (1992), with Hugh Grant and
Polanski's current wife Emmanuelle Seigner. Both projects failed to impress critics, but
Polanski re-established himself in 1994 with Death and the Maiden, a film adaptation of Ariel
Dorfman's play. In 1999, Polanski directed the supernatural thriller The Ninth Gate, which
starred Johnny Depp. The film's critical and commercial reception was tepid.
Polanski staged a comeback in 2002 with the critically acclaimed Holocaust drama The Pianist,
which won the Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Polanski won a surprise Best Director
Oscar for the film, but was not allowed to attend the award ceremony due to his criminal
indictment. The film's star, 29-year-old Adrien Brody, also earned an Oscar for his
performance.
Following The Pianist, Polanski said he was anxious to make a film his children could enjoy.
His next project was a film adaptation of the classic Dickens novel Oliver Twist, starring Ben
Kingsley. Despite a strong cast, the film performed poorly at the box office and received tepid
reviews from critics. His most recent project, The Ghost, starring Pierce Brosnan and Ewan
McGregor, was slated to his theatres in 2010. But on his way to an awards ceremony in Zurich,

Switzerland, he was arrested by Swiss police and is currently in a legal battle with U.S. law
enforcement for his extradition to America. Meanwhile, the production of his film is on
indefinite hold.

Crew:
Director- Roman Polanski
Written by- Ronald Harwood (Screenplay)
- Wladyslaw Szpilman (Book)
Robert Benmussa- Producer
Music by- Wojceich Kilar
Cinematography by- Pawel Edelman
Film Editing by- Harve De Luze

Cast:
Adrien Brody as Wladyslaw Szpilman
Emilia Fox as Dorota
Michal Zebrowski as Jurek
Ed Stoppard as Henryk
Maureen Lipman as the mother
Frank Finlay as the father
Jessica Kate Meyer as Halina
Julia Rayner as Regina

Review:
The Pianist is a movie by director, Roman Polanski, is based on the book titled The Pianist
which is an autobiography written by Wladyslaw Szpilman who is a Jewish-Polish musician.
Thus Szpilman is the main character of the movie and then entire movie is presented from his
perspective.
The opening scene is in black and white and Warsaw 1939 is displayed
on the screen. The music accompaniment is Chopin. The black and white old film transitions
to full color with the camera focused on the hands of the pianist who is playing Chopin. It is
none other than the Jewish-Polish musician himself, Wladyslaw Szpilman. Szpilman is in a
radio studio and both he and the producer can hear the explosions in the background. As the
explosions become louder and appear to be closer to the studio, Szpilman continues to play
without interruption, even when plaster falls from the ceiling. The producer and the his boss,
probably the owner of the station motion to Szpilman to stop playing but their requests are
ignored as he continues to play. It is only when an explosion blows a large hole in the wall and
Szpilman is thrown to the floor that the music ceases.
It has Szpilman seated and playing a piano and getting his playing recorded, when suddenly
theres a chaos outside and an explosion from outside blows an enormous hole in the wall, very
close to Szpilman. On his way out of the building, he is met by a beautiful blond that shows an
interest in him. All the while, people around him are hurrying and screaming trying to exit and
yet Szpilman appears un-phased by yet another explosion occurs right in front of him at the
bottom of the stairs.
The mood of the family changes when they listen to a BBC broadcast that
Britain has declared war on Germany and Poland is no longer alone. The family celebrates and
rejoices at their perceived good news. After a celebratory dinner, they begin to remove the
physical securities they have put in place such as the tape on the windows, to prevent glass
shattering.
Szpilmans family reads a news article advising that they can only keep a certain amount of
money on their person. Its actually comical as they all argue about where and where not to
hide the money. Some of the absurd realities come to light as Szpilman and his girl are walking
through town. He tells her of the decree that no Jews are allowed in parks.

The bleak reality that the war is not over is apparent as Szpilmans father reads the latest decree
regarding the requirement that all Jews wear an emblem on their right sleeve. The decree is
met with opposition by the family.
As the plot progresses, Szpilmans family along with all other Jews in Warsaw are forced to
abandon their homes and move to a tiny apartment in the ghettos.
When they arrive at the place, the first thing they come across is the throwing of a man from
his balcony followed by the killings of the people staying in the opposite building.
It is not long after the murder of the wheelchair bound man Szpilmans family is affected in a
major way, they are forced out of their home and sent to the Jewish ghetto. Wladyslaw, and his
brother Henry discuss this issue, saying,
They wont get all of us in. Its too small, theres 400,000 of us in Warsaw
No, theres 360,000, so itll be easy.
Displacement is never an easy thing, but to have to pick up only a small amount of you
possessions, and leave your home much be incredibly hard. As the film presented this scene, I
was astonished at how resigned to their fate they were. You could see the sadness in their eyes,
and the fear in their body language, yet they bore it and dealt with it as best they can, something
that impressed me incredibly, as a true demonstration of their nature. To put 360,000 people
into a place the size of the Jewish Ghetto is fraught with lots of issues, yet that is what they
were forced to do, and to complain was to risk being beaten, and potentially killed. 100,000
Jews died in the Warsaw ghetto between their displacement in 1940 and the uprising in 1942,
and as such it seems that unknowingly over a quarter of the population were just giving
themselves over to death.
It was when the residents of the Jewish Ghetto staged their uprising, what comes to mind is the
best choice in circumstances like this, and seeing a group of men fighting against the odds
again gave rise to the notion of wanting to live. They realise they are being wiped out, and
dont just want to be complacent and let it happen. A friend of Szpilmans (name unknown)
also working in the ghetto tells him (after stating evidence about trains taking Jews to
concentration camps),
they are exterminating us. Wont take them long. Were sixty thousand left. Out of half a
million. Mostly young people. And this time, were going to fight.

The scheme they work up, smuggling guns in amongst food such as potatoes, and then throwing
them over the wall to the others confined, was an impressive act. They risk being vaught on
many occasions, and yet stick to their plan and keep going.
The courage showed by the men in the ghetto is tremendous, but Szpilman decides that he does
not want to be a part of it. Despite the extermination of Jews by the Germans taking place, he
realises that fighting in this uprising is effectively guaranteeing his death, and that he would
have a better chance surviving. And there it is, that desire to survive that transcends everything
else. When Szpilman first asked to get out, I simply thought he did not wish to be a part of the
fighting, but soon realised the truth of the matter. Szpilman recognised that engaging in combat
against the German forces would effectively seal his death. It would be a much more
honourable death than that afforded to many of the other Jews killed, but it would be death
nonetheless, something which Szpilman did not wish to experience.
This change, from helping out the resistance to leaving them and seeking refuge, got me
thinking a lot more. Despite the fact that he was helping the men who were going to stage an
uprising, he knew what would happen, and wanted to stay alive more. By getting out, although
not helping his mates, he was increasing his chances of survival, something which must be seen
as admirable, considering the circumstances.
That is what is portrayed for the majority of the second half of the film; Szpilmans struggle to
stay alive. He is moved from house to house, under the care of many different people,, with
very little freedom, yet a great deal more safety. Everything comes to a head though, and again
his life is in danger more than ever, and at this point I felt concern for what decisions he was
going to make in regards to his life. With his flat being directly across the road from a busy
German hospital, he sees first-hand the carnage, as the Jews attempt to fight the Nazi soldiers.
This does not go well for the Jewish people, and their resistance concerns the German forces
to the point of driving a tank through the streets, and shelling the building on either side of the
road, including the one in which Szpilman is staying. Szpilman displays how committed he is
to surviving, even with the odds ridiculously highly stacked against him, and I admired the way
in which he kept clarity of thought. With the door to his apartment locked, he is unable to get
out, until a shell from the tank blows a hole in the wall between his and next doors apartment.
After going through and getting out, he moves up and down stairs, dodging fire from enemy
soldiers, and eventually end up getting away and surviving. This was the climax of the film in
relation to the issue; it would have been easy to give up, and not go through the pain of

explosions, flying shrapnel, loud noise, and injuries from jumping of high objects, yet he never
waivers in his attempts to get away. Due to Szpilmans efforts, he manages to survive the war,
being rescued a few months later by Russian forces. He would go on to enjoy a long life, get
married and have children, and live until the age of 88. This shows the silver lining of such
hardships that he had to endure; though painful, he managed to survive the war, and lived a
good life from then on because of it.
This text provided with a very good insight into human nature, and the desire to survive that
we have, which often transcends all other desires. Roman Polanski presents this film in such a
fashion that anyone viewing it instantly is drawn into to the ever changing plot, and does a
highly effective job of presenting the storyline to us. The Pianist is a very moving text, and
certainly one that has had a profound effect on me.