- Through editing Polanski has a true gift for creating paranoia. You can see it in rosemary’s baby, Chinatown, and ghost writer. It’s palpable as he slowly brings the pianist to a boil – there’s an unmistakable sense of horrific doom (of course here it’s the holocaust)
- Known for Brody’s Oscar win- I still think DDL in gangs of new york is superior but Brody does a great job here and he’s a deserving Oscar winner. There’s weight loss, face manipulation (to show both weight loss and sickness) yet it’s a reserved performance- not showy at all which I love
- The ending showing him coming full circle, sitting and playing the piano impeccably dressed and well groomed- is powerful
- I also love that the battle scenes are shown only from Brody’s POV in hiding
- Not in the top 10 of 2002
[…] The Pianist – Polanski […]
The Pianist (2002)
– Starts with historical footage
– Great frame at 1:10, Brody’s character is playing piano but is forced to evacuate area after hearing explosives going off, this sets the tone
– Occasional levity in such as dark film like the conversation about where to hide money around 6 min
– Brody’s Szpilman tries to be positive on his date, close up shots at 9:40 of Szpilman and his date, a blond woman who is not Jewish
– There is appropriately a lot of gray and dull colors in the mise-en-scene, lack of primary colors
– Overhead shot of the Nazi’s at 28:32 right before arguably the most brutal scene in the film, right after arrival close up of apartment with all the lights going off
– 31:03 right after brutal scene there is a transition to Szpilman playing the piano, bright lighting, music is Szpilman’s escape from the horrors
– 48:45 Szpilman’s family eats their last “meal” together, a tiny little piece of bread I think which they divide up just before the trains take them away.
– 1:10:30 there are various forms of cruelty beyond just violence, Nazi’s make Jews sing and/or dance in some scenes for no other reason than their own personal amusement.
– The scope is smaller than other Holocaust films such as Schindler’s List as it is largely about the Holocaust through the perspective of one character, Szpilman.
– Interesting that Polanski chose to make the film in English even though he is a Polish native and the film
– A little over halfway through is when we 1st see fighting back against the Nazi, the film becomes a little brighter, the colors less dull, it’s subtle
– 1:24:57 great doorway frame
– Many overhead shots throughout the film
– Spectacular shot high angle shot at 1:56:00, rows of destroyed apartments along a street, looks almost post-apocalyptic. Shows just how isolated Szpilman is.
– Brody is isolated in many of the scenes, impressive that he is able to carry much of the film in these types of scenes
– Szpilman is not depicted as heroic or extraordinary in any way other than his musical talent, he survives through a combination of luck, help from others, and sheer will power
– Szpilman playing piano, beautiful music bookend
– 2:20:25 brighter saturated colors after war has ended, very noticeable after dull color palette used throughout
No matter how many Holocaust films you see, the horrors depicted never get any easier to watch. To say this film is gut wrenching is a massive understatement, but it is far less sentimental than Schindler’s List. To be clear less sentimental does not it is not just as sad/depressing.
Through Szpilman this film depicts the randomness of death during the Holocaust as Nazi murder people arbitrarily; with some exceptions there is often no logic for why the Nazi’s kill some Jews but not others
@James Trapp did you get around to any of Polanski’s 90s films for your study?
@Harry – I watched Death and the Maiden. Have not posted my notes on that one yet, but I thought it was quite strong for essentially a 3 person film confined to 1 location. Polanski is a master of these limited characters and locations set ups with Knife in the Water being his best. His only other 90s films are Bitter Moon (1992) which I have not yet seen but plan on watching, I am doing chronological but skipped that one to come back later. The Ninth Gate is his 3rd and final 90s film, that one I am skipping mainly due to a negative reviews. For directors studies for directors with more than 20 films I usually select about 15 or so. I do like to try to watch as many as possible but I also want to get through several directors so it’s kind of a balancing act.
Have you seen any of his 90s films? Would you recommend them?
I watched all three of his 90s run last year and I really admire all three.
Death and The Maiden is surprisingly strong for a limited location type film. Ben Kingsley’s monologue at the end is the strongest acting I’ve seen from him (wish it was in a stronger film but oh well), amazing talent.
Bitter Moon is really good, with plenty of great establishing shots. I found the narrative incredibly gripping and that had strong structure, it’s some of his most brutal stuff.
The Ninth Gate isn’t the best but it’s a film I really really love due to the key similarities to Eyes Wide Shut which is my #1 oat. I would not recommend skipping it and Drake makes a really solid defence for it with his page for it here : http://thecinemaarchives.com/2020/05/25/the-ninth-gate-1999-polanski/
@Harry – thanks for sharing I am definitely going to watch Bitter Moon soon and I was going to skip 9th Gate but between you and Drake I think I’ll check it out. Overall really loving this study. Tess (1979) and Macbeth (1971) have been the hidden gems.
@Harry – Have you done a complete Polanski study?
@James I’ve seen 13 from Polanski so far so not a complete study.
On my watchlist I have Tess, Macbeth, An Officer and a Spy, Venus in Fur, The Fearless Vampire Killers and Pirates.