The Pianist—Not Just "Another Holocaust Movie"
There is a moment in The Pianist, the new film from Roman Polanski (Chinatown), that bears the mark of the great director's dark sense of humor. A Jew on the run from the Nazis sees an opportunity to find refuge and safety, and he runs toward it. But at the very moment when there is no more reason for him to be in danger, a sickening twist of circumstance intervenes—almost a silly thing if it were not so deadly serious. The entire audience is drawn to the edges of their seats, and because it is Polanski steering the film, it's impossible to know whether this grueling survival story will take a tragic turn due to a mere misunderstanding.
This paralyzing, intense sequence is just one of many sobering scares in this awe-inspiring and exhausting motion picture, which won the coveted Palm D'Or Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. This week it continues to gain rave reviews from critics as it begins its U.S. run. Some are predicting Oscar nominations for best picture, best director, and best actor. Adrien Brody deserves high honors for his work portraying Wladyslaw Szpilman, a concert pianist whose career, family, and community are trampled underfoot as the Nazis crush his Warsaw home.
Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films) praises it as a "masterful film, one that resolutely avoids melodrama, polemicism, heroics, or sentimentality. The Nazis commit ghastly atrocities, but aren't demonized; the protagonist … isn't celebrated. The result is a powerful film that is not about good and evil or cowardice and courage, ...1