Jul 9, 2008

13th July 2008: Roamal Poalnski's - The Pianist

The Pianist

A Film by Roman Polanski
Year 2002
Run time : 150 minutes
English with English subtitles.
13th July 2008 : 5.45 pm
Ashwin Auditorium

Crafted without a whiff of melodrama, this motion picture takes a steady, unflinching look at the plight of Jews in Warsaw during the years when Poland was occupied by the Nazis. For director Roman Polanski, this represents his most effective film in nearly three decades. Not since 1974's Chinatown has Polanski reached such dramatic heights.

There are no concentration camp scenes. Instead of taking us into the depths of Auschwitz, the film leaves us on the streets of Warsaw, where life and death was as uncertain a prospect as it was in the camps. In addition, Polanski does not flinch from showing the naked horrors perpetrated by Nazis on Jews. There is no attempt to sugar-coat this bitter pill – we see frequent gunshots to the head, torture, and the effects of starvation. The tone and style of the film are documentary-like - Polanski observes from a detached perspective, detailing atrocities without manipulating his audience. The result is bleak and powerful, and may overcome more sensitive viewers.

The Pianist opens in 1939 Warsaw, shortly after Poland's defeat to Germany. The film's protagonist is celebrated Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody), who, along with his family, is forced to watch as the restrictions against Jews become increasingly more odious. Initially, Jews are forbidden from eating in certain establishments, walking in public parks, or sitting on public benches. Soon, they must wear distinguishing armbands, bow to Nazis passed in the streets, and walk in the gutters. Eventually, all Jews in Warsaw – approximately 500,000 –are moved into a ghetto, where whole families are crammed into single small rooms. After the Nazis begin implementing their "Final Solution," most of the Jews in Warsaw are shipped to the concentration camps to be exterminated.

Recognizing that The Pianist is a true story adds another layer to its impact. However, it is Polanski's mastery that makes this movie unforgettable. While The Pianist has a strong, clear narrative, the director uses music and images to emblazon Wladyslaw's struggle on our memories.

Roman Polanski

Roman Raymond Polanski (born August 18, 1933) is an Academy Award-winning film director, writer, actor and producer. After beginning his career in Poland, Polanski became a celebrated arthouse filmmaker, and Hollywood director of such films as Rosemary's Baby (1968) and Chinatown (1974). Polanski is considered one of the world’s great film directors.

1939, Poland was invaded and occupied by Germany and the Soviet Union, in accordance with the Nazi-Soviet Pact. The Polański family was a target of Nazi persecution and forced into the Kraków Ghetto, along with thousands of other Polish Jews. Roman Polański's mother was subsequently gassed in the Auschwitz concentration camp. His father barely survived the Austrian concentration camp Mauthausen-Gusen. Polański himself escaped the Kraków Ghetto.

He was educated at the Polish film school in Łódź, Poland, from which he graduated in 1959. Polański speaks six languages: Native Polish language, Russian, English, French, Spanish, and Italian.

He is also known for his tumultuous personal life. He lived in German-occupied Poland during WWII and in 1969, his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by the Manson Family. In 1977 he was involved in an American sex scandal, he fled to France where he has lived a rather reclusive life with his wife the gifted and skilled actress Emmanuelle Seigner and their two children.

He has continued to direct films from Europe, including Frantic (1988), Death and the Maiden (1994), The Ninth Gate, the Academy Award-winning and Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or-winning The Pianist (2002), and Oliver Twist (2005).

Polanski is admired by many other filmmakers all over the world for his genius as a director.

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