‘The Pianist’ plays a range of emotions | SummitDaily.com

‘The Pianist’ plays a range of emotions

“The Pianist” views the Holocaust through the eyes of an artist and bears witness to the power of the human spirit to survive the unbearable.

Director Roman Polanski earned an academy award for the film. Actor Adrien Brody infuses pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman’s story with Polanski’s own wartime experiences. As a boy, Polanski hid in a Krakow ghetto and wandered through Warsaw, relying on strangers who took him in. His mother died in the gas chambers. Decades after World War II, as he searched for locations in Krakow to shoot his film, he met a man who helped members of his family survive the war.

Polanski avoids melodrama by sensitively and steadily presenting the brutal treatment of Jews in Warsaw like an objective reporter. He doesn’t protect the audience from witnessing German soldiers aiming at Jews’ heads and, one by one, killing them. On the other hand, he doesn’t drag the viewer through long, gut-wrenching scenes of Szpilman’s life-and-death battle with jaundice or the longing he must feel when he’s locked in a flat with a piano but is forbidden to make noise for fear of being discovered.

Brody’s commanding performance of a man who transformed from a prosperous pianist to a starving, injured and sick refugee earned him an academy award as best actor in a leading role. He balances the fear, pain and anger inherent in war-torn Poland with a detached acceptance of what he must do to survive.

“The Pianist” illustrates the story of the Holocaust by focusing on what happened outside of the concentration camps, but it is as painful to watch as any other Holocaust film.

Still, it is a necessary film to see. The story holds layers of insights and feelings – many of which may lay dormant, depending on how far the viewer wants to delve.

In the end, Polanski sidesteps any urge to turn Szpilman’s struggles into a heroic story, preferring to offer viewers a mere record of one man’s story. But, in one closing scene, his masterful direction brings out the wonder of the human spirit when Szpilman’s confrontation with a German captain exposes a common theme. The beauty of the encounter soothes some of the pain of watching the film and outweighs any temptation to skip the movie because it’s “too depressing.”

Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at knicoletti@summitdaily.com.

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