About the movie – The Pianist
Produced and directed by Roman Polanski, The Pianist is a 2002 drama movie that’s based on the autobiographical book with the same name. Being one of the greatest historical movies of all times, the plot follows the memoirs of Władysław Szpilman, a Polish-Jewish pianist who managed to survive through the horrors of the World War II.
The movie has Adrien Brody play the main role of pianist Władysław Szpilman alongside other popular names such as Thomas Kretschmann and Emilia Fox. The movie justifies its name – and popularity! – by featuring brilliant music while at the same time, the whole cast of The Pianist offers a truly exceptional performance on screen.
Considering the emotional story, the realistic setting, and the remarkable soundtrack, it’s no wonder that The Pianist was well received around the globe quickly reaching world fame. The movie received a handful of big nominations and managed to win a few Academy Award statues, including an Oscar for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor as well as the BAFTA Awards for Best Film and Best Direction.
The movie, included in BBC’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies of the 21st century, was a co-production effort among France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Poland.
The movie begins in Warsaw, in September 1939 right before the Second World War starts. A young Polish-Jewish man called Władysław Szpilman is playing the piano live on the radio in what seems like another ordinary day. However, the Polish Army hasn’t been holding well against the Germans recently; while Szpilman is playing live, the radio station is bombed.
Realizing the Germans are invading Poland, everyone quickly escapes from the building – on their way out, Szpilman meets Dorota, a sister of one of his friends whom he immediately likes.
Once Szpilman gets home, he sees that his family has been getting ready to flee Poland – a rather rational decision considering the events at the time. However, encouraged by the news they hear on the radio that night – that Britain and France have declared war on Germany – they celebrate and decide to stay, rest assured that the joined forces of the Allies will win over the Germans in no time.
Unfortunately, they soon realize they made a mistake – that was only the beginning of what later one became of the worst genocides in human history. The Holocaust starts soon and both living and working conditions for all Jews become almost unbearable.
Many aren’t allowed to keep their business anymore and everyone has to wear the Star of David armbands. The Szpilman family is forced to move to the so-called Jewish ghetto, a part of Warsaw with brutal conditions – the area is overcrowded and filled with starving people and children.
During their time there, they even witnessed a whole family being killed. Taking a job as a pianist in one of the restaurants, Władysław helps his family to somehow make ends meet and survive.
In August 1942, Szpilman and his family are lined up for transportation at Treblinka – one of the worst extermination camps the Nazi had built. But while walking toward the train, a friend who’s in the Jewish Ghetto Police recognizes Szpilman and pulls him aside, ultimately saving him from being sent to the camp. He never sees his family again.
However, being pulled aside didn’t mean that he got spared from the brutality of the war – he becomes a slave laborer in the ghetto. Realizing there’s a Jewish uprising being planned, he helps by smuggling weapons in potato and bean sacks. A suspicious guard notices the sacks and Władysław is almost caught – realizing the threat, he tries to escape.
With the help of his most trusted friends, he manages to get into an empty apartment near the ghetto wall where he can stay indefinitely under one condition – if he remains silent. In August 1943, he witnesses how the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising unfolds and greatly fails – weeks later, all of the participants – some of which were his friends – are killed and the uprising is completely crashed.
Gebczynski, a friend of his who has been helping him all along and was aiding the uprising as well, tells him it’s only a matter of time before Władysław is found – they both have to run away as soon as possible. He gives him an address to go to in a case of emergency. However, Szpilman stays living in the apartment for a few more months, until a neighbor accidentally discovers him.
Heading over to the address he was given, he’s surprised to learn that Dorota is living there – married, pregnant and with a deceased brother. Dorota and her husband help Władysław hide in another empty apartment where there’s a surprising addition – a piano. However, the man supposed to bring food to Władysław isn’t very generous to his guest; Władysław struggles with jaundice and at one point almost dies.
Dorota and her husband find him and he manages to recover just in time to witness the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. At one point, the Nazis drive the entire population out of Warsaw. Władysław hides around until eventually heading back to the ghetto – now an abandoned, empty place filled with rubble.
Struggling to survive by rummaging for food in the ruins of the ghetto, he finds a can of cucumbers – a more than a generous serving for the time. However, a German officer called Captain Wilm Hosenfeld finds him while he’s trying to open the can.
He manages to convince the officer that he really is a pianist by playing for him Chopin’s Ballade in G minor – Szpilman, decrepit, hasn’t played the piano in years but still makes for a worthy performance.
The Captain, touched by his music and talent, lets him hide in the house attic and brings him food afterward, telling him the war will be over soon. The last time the two men meet, he promises to listen to him on the radio once the war is over and gives him his coat to keep him warm.
Soon after, Polish partisans free Warsaw. In the spring of 1945, Hosenfeld is held at a Soviet prisoner-of-war camp. The captain overhears an inmate talking about his former career as a violinist and asks if he knows about a musician named Szpilman – he asks for Władysław to come there and help release him.
By the time Szpilman is brought to the site, they find it abandoned – the prisoners are gone.
The movie wraps up with Szpilman performing Chopin’s Grand Polonaise Brillante in front of a large audience; the epilog tells that Szpilman managed to live full 88 years and died in 2000. The German captain, Hosenfeld, died in Soviet captivity in 1952.