A scene from 'The Pianist'
Buy movie posters at AllPosters.com
Courtesy Photo
***1/2 stars
148 minutes | Rated: R
NY/LA: Friday, December 27, 2002
LIMITED: Friday, January 3, 2003
Directed by Roman Polanski

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

This film received an honorable mention on the Best of 2002 list.

Read our interview with Adrien Brody Read our Feb. 2002 Adrien Brody interview


Very little of this film's emotional impact or transporting imagery will be lost to the small screen -- as long as you give it your undivided attention, which it most certainly deserves.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 05.27.2003
The primary bonus feature on this DVD is a long, dryly adequate, informational making-of with cheesy editing (Polanski refers to screenwriter Ronald Harwood as having a great sense of humor, and there's a cut to Harwood laughing, Brody says Polanski is "very hands-on," and there's a cut to Roman giving Brody a hug). But this feature picks up half way through with details of Polanski's own story of survival in the Warsaw ghetto and some really good interview footage with Brody, who has a lot to say about what he willingly went through for the role and how much it meant to him to be authentic (in addition to losing 30 lbs, he got rid of his apartment, his phone, his CDs, his TV and his car to "have a glimpse of what that loss would feel like").

NOTE: the two-sided disc has only a fine-print indication (around the spindle hole) which side the film is on and which side the bonus features are on.

Trailer, Cast bios, etc.

RATIO: 1.85:1 (16x9 enhanced)
SOUND: Dolby 5.1
DUBS: Spanish, French
SUBS: English, Spanish, French



  • WWII/Holocaust
  • Roman Polanski
  • Adrien Brody

  •  LINKS for this film
    Official site
    at movies.yahoo.com
    at Rotten Tomatoes
    at Internet Movie Database
    Watch the trailer
    Polanski's very personal 'Pianist' a powerful, true-story testament to a Warsaw Jew's survival during WWII

    By Rob Blackwelder

    An emotionally and factually detailed, uniquely personal true story of day-by-day Holocaust survival, "The Pianist" is a labor of passion on the part of director Roman Polanski (who as a child escaped German-occupied Cracow), a monument to those who persevered through the Nazi onslaught and a memorial to those who could not.

    It's the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a composer and musician who played -- throughout a German a bombing run -- the last live music heard on the radio in Warsaw as the city was invaded in 1939. It's the story of how he felt hope because Britain and France entered the war, even as his family was one of thousands forced into a small, walled-and-razor-wired ghetto in 1940.

    It's the story of how he eluded deportation to concentration camps in 1942 by hiding in the ghetto as it was emptied by German soldiers, how he became a laborer while the Nazi's had use for slaves, and how he escaped and bore witness from a distance to the month-long Warsaw uprising while starving and wracked with guilt in a series of empty apartments where he was concealed by sympathizers throughout the war.

    And it's a film whose every moment bristles with the weight of these events on Szpilman's psyche, thanks to a devastating performance by Adrien Brody, an actor naturally adept to characterizing bottomless depth with minimal outward manifestation. Brody ("Summer of Sam," "Harrison's Flowers") is on screen nearly every minute of this two-and-a-half-hour film, and the walking-wounded state of shock he portrays permeates the screen in a way that sneaks into the senses and rattles the soul.

    Polanski's powerful, diary-like recreation of specific dates during the Nazi occupation lends enormous weight to the fact that this film is not fiction. In one year, Szpilman (whose autobiography was the basis for the film) saw Warsaw go from a place where he was a respected musician to a place where Jews weren't allowed in public parks and had to wear blue Star of David armbands in public. On October 31, 1940, he saw a virtual prison wall erected around a pre-determined "Jewish district." On August 16, 1942, he escaped the train taking people to the death camps and, in the film's most overwhelming moment, walks with tears in his eyes through the empty ghetto, strewn with debris from houses trashed and emptied by soldiers.

    "The Pianist" bears witness to Szpilman's life as a prisoner and a fugitive, locked inside empty flats where he'd been hidden by the underground, having to keep quiet and out of sight, running out of food when his benefactors couldn't visit, unable to turn on the heat or the lights, and keeping a clear path for him to run and jump out the window to his death if he thought the Nazis were about to bust down the door.

    While not profoundly moving -- at least in comparison to other films that take place inside the squalid, terrifying death camps that Szpilman managed to avoid -- "The Pianist" certainly captures another kind of horror faced by a lone man hiding for his life in the belly of the Nazi war machine. Nowhere is this reality more forcefully portrayed than when Szpilman comes face to face with a Nazi commandant (Thomas Kretschmann) scouting his latest hiding spot in the bombed-out suburbs for a temporary headquarters in the last months of the war. Forced to play a rubble-caked piano for the officer, he pours all the energy and life he has left in him into this performance that he's almost certain will be his last.

    The extent to which Polanski and Brody (who was already skinny but lost a great deal of weight for the later scenes) immersed themselves in this story comes through most completely in this scene. It's clear from the long, single takes -- which include pans from hands to face and back -- that the actor learned not just to play piano, but to play well enough that he could express both immense fear and harmonious grace and splendor all at once in both his acting and his playing.

    The terrible beauty of this moment is the movie's every emotion in a nutshell, and the astonishing results a testament to the humanity that can be found in the worst circumstances of dread one can imagine.


    Buy from Amazon

    Rent from Netflix

    or Search for

    Unlmited DVD rental
    $20 a month


    powered by FreeFind
    SPLICEDwire home
    Online Film Critics Society
    All Rights Reserved
    Return to top
    Current Reviews
    SPLICEDwire Home