The Pianist

The Pianist


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Recounting the experiences of a Polish Jew who becomes a refugee in Nazi-occupied Warsaw, this film has been accused of stealing all the prizes purely for political reasons, which is quite unfair.

The first thing one notices about it - beyond the intricate, astutely observed set dressing and the assured ensemble performances - is its starkness, its very unwillingness to indulge in emotive cliches. There is horrendous violence here, as there must be for such a tale to be told honestly, but it's presented in a plain, spare manner, with little time allowed for characters' reactions. This, indeed, is one of the story's central tropes - an observation of the way people cease to react even to the most hideous things, whether they be perpetrators or victims; and how this, together with a continued appreciation for beauty, facilitates their survival

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A superbly structured film, The Pianist first seems like a rambling, loosely constructed tale (forgiveable, given that it's based on a true story), but gradually reveals itself to be following the patterns of the music played by its hero in one amazing final scene, a straight recital whose energy and attention to detail showcases Polanski at his very best.

His own love of music, like his love of light, fills the film with passion, transforming what might otherwise have been unbearably grim, and making the cruelty of the occupying forces all the uglier by contrast. Despite its historical setting, this is an intensely modern film. Its politics are by no means straightforward, and it is a timely reminder of the way that bigotry and racism can quickly escalate out of control.

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2007
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True story of how a jewish concert pianist escaped the holocaust by hiding out in the Warsaw ghetto.
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Angus Wolfe Murray *****

Director: Roman Polanski

Writer: Ronald Harwood, based on the autobiography by Wladyslaw Szpilman

Starring: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Maureen Lipman, Emilia Fox, Michal Zebrowski, Ed Stoppard, Julia Rayner, Jessica Kate Meyer, Ruth Platt

Year: 2002

Runtime: 148 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Poland


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