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Thursday, March 15, 2012

The pianist - Roman Polanski

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‘ The Pianist ” - Roman Polanski


Does the world really need another Holocaust film? Keene ( December 00). Roman Polanski’s, ‘The Pianist’ brings us face to face with a historical record presented on screen so many times it may seem to have lost some of its force. During the past 1 years, there have been 170 movies on the Holocaust. No other historic subject has received such extraordinary cinematic focus. Whilst we can say the theme has been over exploited, ‘The Pianist’ focuses on one persons extraordinary story, however also emphasises that almost every holocaust survivor possesses an equally terrifying account.


Based on a true story, ‘The Pianist’ recounts the experiences of Wladislaw Szpilman (Adrian Brody), a young Jewish musician whose world was, his family and his music, until he was deprived of both when the Germans invaded Poland in 1. ‘The Pianist’ puts you in the Warsaw Ghetto that encloses you, just as the brick wall enclosed 500,000 Jews by 140. The Ghetto was, overcrowded with people who were forced to shamely wear the Star of David armbands and who’s fate was held in the hands of the Nazi’s. We learn of this life in the ghetto through the Szpilman family.


Wladyslaw Szpilman, was an intense young man, living in an upscale neighbourhood of Warsaw with his family, including his mother (Maureen Lipman), father (Frank Finlay), brother Henryk (Ed Stoppard) and sisters. The film begins with him playing the piano for a Polish radio station, when the first bombs are dropped in Warsaw. As he flees the studio, he meets a pretty blonde lady by the name of Dorota (Emilia Fox), but their attempts at dating are overcome by their different faiths and by the Nazi’s prohibiting Jews from many sectors of the city. However, Szpilmans and Dorota cross paths again many years later.


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Music, literally, saves Szpilman’s life. Initially, his status as a renowned musician allows him and his family to live in the smaller but better part of the ghetto, and to work as a pianist in a Jewish restaurant. We see Szpilman and his family, cling to life, as they watch the Jewish ghetto being built, children die in front of them and innocent people dragged from their beds and shot. For a while, Szpilman and his family manage to escape the difficulties of deportation as they find employment that prolongs their stay for the moment. Not long after, deportation was inevitable. When he and his family are finally forced to board the cattle cars that will take them to the Treblinka death camp, he is pulled aside by a Jewish collaborator / policeman who admires his music, and allowed him to return to the Ghetto. Isolated and numb by all the misfortune of being separated by his family, Szpilman is an observer of the cruel fate that affects his life.


After eventually escaping the Ghetto, he is rescued by the Polish underground whom included Dorta and her husband. The Polish underground located Szpilman into various apartments throughout the city to, “await the worst .” From here Szpilman is solitary, for he can not afford to be discovered by the Germans . Although, he receives some assistance through friends along the way, he is virtually alone as he fights hunger, loneliness, sickness and fear. But the journey gives a unique perspective on the war raging, as he observes through the progression of windows. “Whether hiding out underground, censoring his behaviour, relying on the kindness of strangers or being exposed to the continued inhumane harassment of Nazi dominance, Szpilman’s humanity is constantly tested by the disbelief of this elaborate, nightmarish scenario.” Frank Ochieng (00).


Thorough the film, Szpilman finds himself music-less.  Although he cannot risk making a sound while hiding in a Warsaw apartment, he sits by the piano and moves his fingers above the keys, appreciating the silent music. With this, he touches our hearts and has us genuinely hoping that he will endure and survive through the turmoil we see him miraculously battle alone. In his final hiding place in bombed-out Warsaw, Szpilman is protected by a Nazi music lover, who brings him food and a warm coat. But equally important, music keeps his spirit alive.


After a long, lonely, awaited moment , Szpilman is finally saved by the Russian soldiers. It was from this moment, the struggle was over. After the war, we learn, Szpilman remained in Warsaw and worked the remaining of his life as a pianist.


The Director, Roman Polanski is a Holocaust survivor, saved at one point when his father pushed him through the barbed wire of a camp, he wandered the Ghetto a frightened child, cared for by the kindness of strangers. “Polanski’s own experiences as a child, gives the film a wider socio-historical import than would a fictional narrative using the well-worn background of the War to provide dramatic context.” Yoram Allon (00). Polanski is dependable, as he knows all he has to do is tell the story and tell it well. He Crafts the movie with confidence, by keeping the narrative simple, knowing the power of the story needs no manipulation, as you cant hope to explain this much pain, you just show it.


Although Polanski chose not to film his own story, his own horrific war time experiences related very closely to that of Szpilmans. As an artistic Jewish youngster growing up in Poland during the holocaust, Polanski was able to identify closely with Szpilman and use his traumatic tale to convey his own feelings about life in Poland under Nazi rule. Polanski, like Szpilman, is a camera, witnessing and recording these events so they will never be forgotten. It presents this devastating moment in history through an artist’s first hand account. ‘The Pianist’, does not exploit or simplify its subject; there are good and hateful Poles, courageous and selfish Jews, even a kind-hearted Nazi.


So what does make this film so unique and different from other Holocaust films? I would have to argue against, ‘Phil Hall (00)’ who classified ‘The Pianist’, as ‘just another’ representation of the Holocaust and consequently, it’s theme alone has lost it’s force as a film. As there are no words left to describe the horrors of the Holocaust, Polanski’s approach as he portrays the severely caustic manipulations behind the Holocaust, makes the film more honest in contrast to other World War II films. Instead of focusing on the hideous movement of the Nazis, Polanski, uses the thriving madness of the Holocaust as a background landscape to mould his character of Szpilman.


By showing Szpilman as a survivor, rather than a fighter or a hero, Polanski is reflecting himself as a man who does all he can to save himself, but would have died without enormous good luck and the kindness of a few non-Jews. It is the approach of capturing the more common way of which the Jewish survived - by chance rather than heroism, that makes this film so incredibly distinctive.


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