The Pianist

Cast
Wladyslaw Szpilman: Adrien Brody
Dorota: Emilia Fox
Capt. Wilm Hosenfeld: Thomas Kretschmann
The Father: Frank Finlay
The Mother: Maureen Lipman
Focus Features presents a film directed by Roman Polanski. Written by Ronald Harwood. Based on the book by Wladyslaw Szpilman. Running time: 148 minutes. Rated R (for violence and brief strong language).

Central Theme
An inspirational story of the resilient human spirit overlaid on a probing look at the value of human life and the loss of life, literally and spiritually, resulting from tyrannical evil going unchecked as happened in WWII when Hitler invaded Poland.

Story
Wladyslaw Szpilman is Poland’s premier pianist, an exceptional interpreter of Chopin and a Jew. When the Third Reich enters Poland Szpilman and his family are forced to leave the comfort of their hard-earned life, moving to a hovel in the Jewish Ghetto. Cordoned off from society and any means of earning a decent income, the family’s health and financial situation deteriorates while they gamely make the best of an impossible situation.

When the Germans load most of the Jews on trains bound for the “camps,” Szpilman is spared when a guard recognizes him as “the pianist.” Physically unfit for a life of hard labor in the ghetto work crew, Szpilman is again spared when a co-worker arranges for his escape with the aid of a dear musician friend Dorota and her husband.

Hiding in a succession of abandoned apartments, surviving with little or nothing to eat and living under the constant threat of discovery by the Germans, Szpilman is wasting away and near death. Yet in the darkest of hours, light shines through in decent humans who emerge from the unlikeliest of places.

Szpilman’s life may seem of greater value than others because of his extraordinary talent, but underlying the film is the awareness of the value of every human life, the unconscionable treatment of Jews, the inhumanity we are capable of, and the importance of remembering so this never happens again.

Among the haunting moments is a scene when one Jew says under his breath, “I’ve stopped believing in God.” For many the holocaust is a sincere barrier to belief and no glib response will satisfy the depth of despair brought on by that event and others like it. Yet at the film’s conclusion, God is named as the source of the survivor’s hope when Captain Hosenfeld explaining his life-saving acts of kindness says to Szpilman: “Thank God, not me. He wants us to survive. Well, that’s what we have to believe.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–How did this film resonate with you artistically and thematically?
–What were the points of dissonance?
–How would your belief in God have fared in the Holocaust?
–Where was God during the Holocaust?
–How do you explain Hitler’s cruelty towards the Jews and why were so many willing to become co-conspirators in executing his plan to exterminate the Jews and gays?
–Will there ever be a time in human history where war ceases to exist?
–What did Szpilman have that enabled him to survive?
–How did Szpilman and other Holocaust survivors have the resilience to recover from the horrors of the Holocaust?

Provocative Quotes byline
–I’m not going anywhere. If I’m going to die, I’m going to die in my own home.
==Szpilman when told of the plan for a Jewish Ghetto,
–Here’s to Great Britain and France. Didn’t I tell you all would be well?
==Szpilman’s father when hearing the news of Allies involvement to stop Hitler.
–I would suggest we sit down on a bench, but that’s also an official decree, no Jews allowed on benches. So, we should just stand here and talk, I don’t think we’re not allowed to do that.
==Szpilman to Dorota before leaving for the Ghetto.
–You musicians don’t make good conspirators¢â‚¬¦You’re too musical.
==Friend to Szpilman
–Germans won’t use Jewish toilets. They’re (Jewish toilets) too clean!
== Szpilman friends Ghetto humor.
–The American Jewish bankers over there should be pressuring them to declare war on Germany.
== Szpilman’s father about American Jews apathy.
–They’ve got my grandson¢â‚¬¦what do they do to him?¢â‚¬¦I’ve stopped believing in God.
==Jewish man in crowd where Nazi’s are mocking Jews.
–It’s a funny time to be saying this, but I wish I knew you better.
== Szpilman to youngest sister as they are heading for the trains to the camps.
–What do you think you’re doing Szpilman, I saved your life?
==Cop who pulls Szpilman out of line for the Nazi camp trains.
–I hope you play the piano better than you carry bricks.
==Co-worker regarding Szpilman unfitness for manual labor.
–Thank God, not me. He wants us to survive. Well, that’s what we have to believe.
==Captain Hosenfeld to Szpilman.
–Polanski himself is a Holocaust survivor, saved at one point when his father pushed him through the barbed wire of a camp. He wandered Krakow and Warsaw, a frightened child, cared for by the kindness of strangers. His own survival (and that of his father) are in a sense as random as Szpilman’s, which is perhaps why he was attracted to this story. Steven Spielberg tried to enlist him to direct “Schindler’s List,” but he refused, perhaps because Schindler’s story involved a man who deliberately set out to frustrate the Holocaust, while from personal experience Polanski knew that fate and chance played an inexplicable role in most survivals.
==Roger Ebert on Polanski’s involvement in this project.

Posted in Movies, Staublog in January 3, 2003 by | No Comments »

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