60/60 Review #24: The Pianist.

I stated yesterday in my review of The Counterfeiters that I was getting bored with the whole genre. Perhaps it's the fact that all these Nazi films feel the same. And it wasn't helping me any that, of all the films this month, The Pianist was the one that got the least amount of favorable talk and gave me the smallest expectations going in. All of this taken into account, it was to my incredible surprise and amazement how much I enjoyed this movie.

This film tells the true story of a Jewish, Polish pianist named Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody) throughout World War II. He and his family lived in Warsaw when the Nazis invade, and they end up in a self-made ghetto. From then on, things continue to go downhill, and Szpilman does what he can just to survive.

There's not much of a story behind the 2-and-a-half hours of film, and that's really my one major negative behind the movie. Around the middle it starts to drag ever so slightly, but that doesn't last too long. There's also a strange flow of time, sometimes having the movie make a huge jump in time where the visuals make it seem like it's the same day or maybe only a day later. But overall, the movie kept me engaged, mostly thanks to the strong characters--particularly Szpilman. And I think that's one of the strongest aspects of the movie. I think one issue I had with the previous few films in this month was that, while a lot of the time was spent in those films building up the characters and getting you to feel for them, none of them made me feel as strong about them as I did with Adrien Brody. By the end of the film, I was in pretty heavy suspense, hoping nothing would happen to the guy (no, I didn't know the true story behind the movie).

The acting, particularly Brody, was outstanding. He definitely deserved his Oscar. Also deserving of the Oscar was director Roman Polanski. His visual eye in this film was fantastic. There are plenty of scenes that, despite the destruction, are gorgeous to look at. And there are other moments that are heartbreaking. Characters just walking down the street and stepping over dead bodies of men and children as if they're everyday occurrences. And I felt this movie was even more disturbing and brutal than the others, even though there's probably just as much death shown (maybe even less). Something about it just felt more... real.

For most of the film, I was going to go with a slightly lower rating. But it was within that last 20-30 minutes that really shot it up for me. I've always felt an ending (or third act) can make or break a movie, and this one just had a great third act. With Brody on the run and in hiding in the destroyed town, every day is a new struggle. (SPOILERS) I think it's when he's found by the Nazi near the end of the film, and the Nazi forces him to play the piano for him before deciding to not only let him live but help him survive... that resonated with me. The piano playing scene was beautiful, thrilling, suspenseful, and touching all at the same time. I think I was holding my breath, expecting the Nazi to pull out his gun and shoot Brody at the end of the song, meanwhile captivated by the beautiful music. It was just a flurried mix of emotions that grabbed me. (END SPOILERS)

Overall, I think one good reason the film resonated with me so quickly was its placement in the 60/60 List. Let me explain... over the last few movies, I've been given concentration camps and, outside that, I'd seen little things here and there that were basically glossed over, or at least hardly explained. I saw the armbands to signify who were Jews; I saw (in Schindler's List, specifically) Jews being forced into walled-in ghettos within the city; I saw people hiding their money and jewels as Nazis invaded their homes; I saw threats of uprising that never really went anywhere. But none of that was ever really explored. But in this film, they explored the armbands and reactions to said armbands; they explored the building of the walls around the ghetto and the extreme nature of living within those walls; they had a deep discussions on hiding their valuables; and there were actually uprisings. And not a single concentration camp. In other words, along with everything else I've said in this review, this was a movie that gave me everything the other movies didn't--and I think that's why I loved it.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese


  1. I also loved this film, because it's different from the other WWII-films.

  2. I agree, this movie holds rather solid footing on my top 100 films list. I think it's absolutely beautiful - especially in how subtle it approaches things and yet keeps this so vibrant. I also love that it's a very atypical WW2 movie. With the exception of the many adaptations of Diary of Anne Frank, it is one of the few films that is neither about the fighting nor the camps - and it handles that distinction with precision.

  3. I agree with the Anne Frank comparison. I actually thought of Anne Frank on more then one occasion while watching this movie.


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