Thursday, January 30, 2003

The Pianist

Powerful and moving this film set in WW II directed by the great Roman Polanski explores anti-Semitism, survival and unexpected acts of kindness amongst brutality and barbarism as experienced by one person- Polish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman. I realize at this point almost everyone has seen it but for those who haven’t it don’t wait until it comes out on video. Maybe since the headline of yesterday's Sun read "Bush braces America for war" brings a film like this to the forefront. Many good films have been made about WWII and the atrocities that man inflicts upon each other based on fear, hate toward ethnic groups, desire for economic supremacy and mass craziness. "Schindler’s List" certainly was excellent in that regard not to mention the documentary "The Sorrow and the Pity" which is an amazing and painful exploration of anti-Semitism and survival amidst war. What is unique about "The Pianist" is that on such a profoundly visceral level as an audience member one experiences the isolation and pain of a man fighting for survival. That is what this film is about- survival- and Adrien Brody’s portrayal of a man forced into hiding and living literally and figuratively on the scraps of humanity is heart breaking.

At one point while hiding in an abandoned building Brody is discovered by Nazi Captain Wilm Hosenfeld played by Thomas Kretschmann who remarks, "How is it you can play the Piano to such a level mind is unable to comprehend what I see and hear? You are Jewish; Untermenchen!" Afterwards he brings Brody bread and eventually gives him his coat. As good a film as "Chinatown" Polanski’s direction isn’t manipulative, and the cinematography excellent. Honestly I don’t think I have ever heard so much sniffling and crying in a theater before. Not since "Life is Beautiful" actually. Films about genocide are so profoundly sad. Maybe the realization that no matter how many technological and medical advances have been made in the past hundred years human nature hasn’t kept pace. And that is heartbreaking.