The Pianist

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(2002) ★★★★★

ITV3: Sunday 10 January, 1.25am

Playing Chopin nocturnes on a Polish radio broadcast, Adrien Brody is knocked off his piano stool when the Nazi bombs arrive in 1939. Soon his entire world will be blown apart by the German invasion. Roman Polanski’s powerful drama is based on the memoirs of Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman, interned with his family in the Warsaw Ghetto.

The story of his survival in this most abject of surroundings is scarcely credible. Yet it happened. Hidden by friends, denounced by neighbours (by no means all Poles tolerated Jews in their midst), Szpilman survives the entire Second World War in virtual isolation by a mixture of good fortune and guardian angels.

At first, the German occupation is an incovenience. Then it is humiliating, as Jews are forced to walk in the gutter and abide by increasingly bizarre regulations. Finally, it is devastating, as 350,000 Jews are crammed inside Warsaw’s walled ghetto. There are rumours of resettlement in the East, at labour camps. It’s enough to make you cry over spilled soup in the street – not to mention the decaying corpses littering the pavements.

The whimsical fictions of Jakob the Liar and Life is Beautiful are put firmly in their place by Polanski’s powerful drama, which is fit to stand alongside Schindler’s List and the great Hungarian picture Fateless as testament to the horrible contradictions and wretched ironies of life during wartime.

With the oddly dignified air of a distracted penguin, Adrien Brody wanders through the blighted city, his startled eyes shining with sadness, burning with tears, extinguished of hope but not of humanity. How well he deserved his Oscar. Polanski, too, won Best Director even though he’s still wanted in the United States on a charge of underage sex (for which he served time back in the 70s). Tragedy dogged Polanski: his mother died in Auschwitz and his pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, was slain by Charles Manson’s ghouls in 1969. The film itself lost out to Chicago as Best Picture. That’s show business.

Certificate: 15
Duration: 125min

IMDB – The Pianist

TMDB – The Pianist

Rotten Tomatoes – The Pianist

Other Showings Date & Time
ITV3 Monday, 11 January at 1:25AM