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Today’s Prayer Focus

The Pianist

also known as “Pianists,” “A zongorista,” “Der Pianist,” “El Pianista,” “HaPsantran,” “Il pianista,” “Le pianiste,” See more »
MPA Rating: R-Rating (MPA) for violence and brief strong language.

Reviewed by: Jim O'Neill

Moral Rating: Average
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: Adults Young Adults
Genre: Drama Adaptation
Length: 2 hr. 30 min.
Year of Release: 2002
USA Release: March 28, 2003
Copyright, Focus Features, a subsidiary of Universal Pictures, a division of NBCUniversal/Comcastclick photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Focus Features, a subsidiary of Universal Pictures, a division of NBCUniversal/Comcast Copyright, Focus Features, a subsidiary of Universal Pictures, a division of NBCUniversal/Comcast Adrien Brody at the Piano
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Focus Features, a subsidiary of Universal Pictures, a division of NBCUniversal/Comcast

A Polish Jewish musician struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II


Copyright, Focus Features, a subsidiary of Universal Pictures, a division of NBCUniversal/Comcast

Holocaust, genocide, atrocities, mass murders

Jewish resistance


Copyright, Focus Features, a subsidiary of Universal Pictures, a division of NBCUniversal/Comcast


Sin, depravity and the fall of man

Learn about spiritual light versus darkness

Copyright, Focus Features, a subsidiary of Universal Pictures, a division of NBCUniversal/Comcast

Anti semitism

Racial discrimination

RACISM—What are the consequences of racial prejudice? Answer

Copyright, Focus Features, a subsidiary of Universal Pictures, a division of NBCUniversal/Comcast
Issue of pain and suffering

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer?

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain?

ORIGIN OF BAD THINGS—Why are they in our world if a good God created us? Answer

Paradise or Pain? Why is the world the way it is?
Why is the world the way it is? If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and loving, would He really create a world like this? (filled with oppression, suffering, death and cruelty) Answer

What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer

What is DEATH? and WHY does it exist? Answer in the Bible

What is the FINAL JUDGMENT? and WHAT do you need to know about it? Answer

What is ETERNAL LIFE? and what does the Bible say about it?


What is JUSTICE? What does the Bible say about it? Answer

Justice of God

Featuring Adrien BrodyWladyslaw Szpilman
Emilia FoxDorota
Michal Zebrowski … Jurek
Ed Stoppard … Henryk
Maureen Lipman … Mother
Frank Finlay … Father
Jessica Kate Meyer … Halina
Julia Rayner … Regina
Wanja Mues … SS Slapping Father
Richard RidingsMr. Lipa
See all »
Director Roman Polanski
Producer R.P. Productions [France]
Heritage Films [Poland]
See all »
Distributor: Focus Features. Trademark logo.
Focus Features
, a subsidiary of Universal Pictures, a division of NBCUniversal/Comcast

“Music was his passion. Survival was his masterpiece.”

This film is an adaptation of the autobiography The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945 by Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jewish radio station pianist.

Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist” is perhaps the best film about the Holocaust that I have seen. It spans the period in Warsaw from the beginning of World War II when Germany invaded Poland until the end of the War when Russian troops took control of the Polish capital—a day many Poles describe as the day they lost the war a second time. My only objection to the film is more political than artistic. Polanski seems to give the Russians a pass. The Communists may have eliminated the Nazi terror from Poland, but they lost no time in establishing a vicious totalitarian regime of their own, one which continued to devalue the people and to eliminate almost all freedoms, including the freedom to practice religion. They even banned the very book this movie is based on.

Nonetheless, Polanski, who himself spent his boyhood in Krakow and suffered under the Nazis, presents a vivid portrait of life inside a human nightmare. The bad dreams start as small disturbances, ones that seem almost unworthy of attention, but the insults lead to physical force, and then to violence. Yet each malevolent act, small or grand, has at its root a disregard for humanity and a contempt for God’s will. Under these circumstances, moral order decays leaving only raw will and power to prevail. This is the world the piano player and his compatriots find themselves in.

“The Pianist” is the true story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, one of Poland’s great 20th Century musicians. The film opens with Wladyslaw playing Chopin for a local radio station. The bombs and the gunfire of the invading blitzkrieg stop the program. Chopin would not be heard again in Poland for a long time. Wladyslaw lives comfortably, even nobly, with his family in a Warsaw apartment. They are soon stripped of their possessions and their home and are sent to live in the city’s “ghetto” where Jews are cut off from the rest of society and forced to live in subhuman conditions. Ultimately his family is transported to concentration camps and faces certain extermination, but Szpilman, because of his fame and his connections, escapes their fate and spends the rest of the war hiding from the Nazis in attics, barren apartments, abandoned hospitals, and even locked closets. Because of his fugitive status, he cannot actively participate in the Ghetto resistance and uprisings. Instead, he must watch passively through window cracks while his countrymen defy their tormentors and face swift retribution.

Szpilman is not a classic war hero. He is not Steve McQueen or Audie Murphy. Rather, he’s a flawed man who gets by on luck and charity as much as his wits. The acts of charity (especially on the part of a married couple who work for the Resistance and a German commander whose good deeds save Szpilman’s life) not only change the piano player’s fortunes, they also temper the story’s persistent brutality helping restore faith in and fondness for the human condition.

Polanski portrays each episode in Szpilman’s ordeal starkly and realistically. The narrative is tighter than what you would expect from a memoir. It moves more like a well-plotted short story or a novella than a memory piece. Rarely does the point of view shift away from Szpilman as almost everything is seen through his eyes, and those sights are presented without bravado and without sentimentality. You won’t see any pink-clad little girls dropped in front of a black-and-white background to yank at your heart strings here. In “The Pianist,” a young boy is beaten to death under a fence, but you never see his face. A man in a wheelchair is pushed out a window and falls to his death in a scene filmed from the other side of the street. This rendering of brutality from behind or afar actually makes the atrocity more chilling because the perspective is more authentic. No emphasis needs to be added to these most inhuman of crimes.

The mystery of evil has sparked Roman Polanski’s imaginative powers in horror fantasies such as “Repulsion” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” and I thought a real life story might limit him. I was wrong. “The Pianist” is a deeply personal film. Polanski uses the tragedy and the turmoil of his own experience to tell us a good story about survival in impossible times.

The acting in “The Pianist” is uniformly fine. Adrien Brody has wide set deep eyes and a long sorrowful face. His countenance looks like it’s ready to take on all the ills and the sorrows of the world, and his performance proves him up to the task. From self-satisfied musician to hunted and hungry animal, he not only brings Szpilman to life, he embodies a civilization whose landscape may be ravaged but whose soul survives and flourishes.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—While some movies “hailed” by the Academy are completely objectionable, this one did deserve the attention and nominations received. Adrian Brody in his performance of Wladyslaw Szpilman was very deserving of his Oscar win. Here, an actor had to carry a film on sheer acting ability, without dazzling special effects or other “big name” actors or actresses as supporting casts. Roman Polanski’s direction of this film and the handling of the subject matter was superb as well. He, as Brody, definitely deserved his Oscar for director. This film deals with the true story of one man’s life turned upside down by the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany during World War II. There is violence in the film, but I didn’t feel it was nearly as graphic as Schindler’s List. There are no concentration camp scenes. The viewer witnesses Szpilman’s family being herded into rail cars like cattle. We know where they are going and what will occur, without seeing it. Other comparisons to Schindler’s List: there is no nudity or sexual scenes. The foul language is minimal. The “R” rating for this film will have most viewers, I feel, braced for more graphic depictions than they will see.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
Scott, age 28
Negative—In my opinion, this movie is full of graphic violence and the only thing that you can learn by watching it is the cruelty and terror of the war, how people can be evil. It has very shocking scenes and nothing of moral value to offer except some good people that risk their lives to help others. There is no conclusion on the end of the movie other than that the main character managed to survive. The movie just leaves your soul empty and terrified. What did the director want to say anyway, what message did he want to tell us? Just that the war is terrible and that some people manage to survive? Nothing more?
My Ratings: Moral rating: no opinion / Moviemaking quality: 4
Ana, age 50 (Croatia)

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