Directed by Roman Polanski
The Pianist is based on the true story of Polish and Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman during the deportation of the Jewish community in the Warsaw ghetto. Szpilman escaped death from concentration camps by the kindness of acquaintances and strangers and managed to outlast the war by hiding from the Nazi’s in various bombed buildings. Szpliman’s memoirs were adapted by playwright Ronald Harwood. I was thrilled that Roman Polanski was the person to direct the piece as it must have been personal to him, being a child survivor from the Krakow and Warsaw ghettos himself. I think his personal wartime memories obviously helped shape the piece and brought his own vision to it. I was apprehensive that the film would focus solely on the dreadful actions of the Germans and how the Jews were treated, as there are plenty of holocaust films that portray the horror of concentration camps but we rarely see much of the survivors or how they coped through those times of hiding.
Nevertheless, The Pianist was shot from survivor Wladyslaw Szpilman’s point of view. Most of what we see is out of a small window and as far as the film goes we have no idea what was happening to other Jews. All we see is death and more death coupled with Szpliman’s determination to stay alive. I felt this was a fantastic directorial decision from Roman Polanski as this meant that instead of categorising people into heroes and villains we witnessed events unfold from Szpilman’s point of view and learn about his struggle to survive in Warsaw until the end of the war. I’m not suggesting that we can forgive the Germans for what they did, but there are moments in the film that allows us to see that some (even if just a few) of the Germans were ordinary people caught up in the extraordinary evil regime of Hitler and the Nazi’s. Perhaps some of them just did not have the courage to take a stand to such a powerfully vicious man and in this instance maybe being evil...
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