Pianist, The

Rated: R
Stars:  Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Emilia Fox, Maureen Lipman, Jessica Kate Meyer, Valentine Pelka
Director:   Roman Polanski
Screenwriters:  Ronald Harwood, Roman Polanski; from the autobiography Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman

Despite the fact that director Roman Polanski has ties to the subject matter, despite the fact that the film is based on a true story, and despite the fact that this is a HOLOCAUST film, thus automatically deemed important by most critics and, therefore, a “must see”, this is a film that is probably the least compelling in its genre.

It’s the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody), a talented World War II-era Polish composer-pianist, who, thanks to his music, friendships and even chance encounters, more so than cunning it would appear, survived the years under German rule and the hideous conditions of the Warsaw ghetto. Then after the war, he returned to performing on his beloved instrument.

I have no doubt that Szpilman’s personal survival story was harrowing. The problem I have is that Szpilman is not an especially interesting fellow, at least not as depicted in this film. Nor is he particularly charismatic or more deserving than others, nor does he do anything remotely heroic that would warrant such attention. Strangely, the most intriguing character is that of a German officer (Thomas Kretschmann) who appears late in the film and comes to Szpilman’s aid with food and even his coat. Kretschmann does a lovely job with this underdeveloped role.

Lotta says: Technically, Polanski and his crew do wonders with CGI technology to recreate bombed out Warsaw. The depiction of the wide use of Jewish collaborators by the Nazis for their auxilliary police force is something not often seen and is factually correct. Brody’s characterization of Szpilman was of a single note and therefore quite boring, as is the film in general. This critic says look to “Schindler’s List” for heroism in a Holocaust film or for something really unique, try HBO’s original production Conspiracy. The Pianist is rated R – for violence and brief strong language

Reviewed June 2003