Starring: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Maureen Lipman, Ed Stoppard, Emilia Fox, Julia Raynor, Jessica Kate Meyer
Director: Roman Polanski
Summary: A Polish Jewish musician struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto during World War II
Other Nominations: Director*, Actor (Brody)*, Adapted Screenplay*, Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing
My reaction to the first part of The Pianist was “maybe I’m starting to get tired of holocaust movies”, as it basically incorporated most of the things you come to expect in non-documentary movies on the subject and didn’t stand out to me. The second part of the movie though is where it really shines-while there are a number of movies about Jewish people who were terrorized, sequestered into ghettos and eventually sent to concentration camps, I hadn’t seen a movie focused on the someone who escaped from a camp and had to find a way to survive until the end of the war, or on the Jewish resistance-most movies present the Jews as meek victims, but here we acknowledge that there were those who fought back: even if it was a hopeless battle, at least they died with dignity.
The film gives a great sense of just how exhausting it was even for the “lucky ones”, those who did successfully escape, how you would have always been desperately searching for sources of food and water in order to meet your basic needs for survival, how you were never sure if you could trust your neighbor or supposed protectors, and how the wrong move could get you killed on the spot.
Brody gives a strong performance, one that pretty much made his career and he hasn’t done a whole lot of real note since which is a shame. If a person in his character’s position wasn’t sympathetic enough, his big, sympathetic eyes are extremely expressive and along with his whole exhausted body language as the film goes on makes him memorable. Overall, the first hour or so was merely pretty good in my estimation, but the last hour and a half was so strong and original that the whole ends up being a great movie.