The Pianist arrives in Sioux Falls

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

I praised the gloriousness of The Pianist in my top ten of 2002 list a few weeks ago, but I’m guessing very few of you clipped that article and laminated it, so I’ll talk about it some more. For those of you who did laminate that article, I’ll go into more detail about the film, as it just reached us out here in the hinterlands.

The Pianist is the best movie nominated for best picture at this year’s Oscars. It probably won’t win, but if it does it will be one of the few things the Oscars have done right in their long and tawdry history.

The Pianist is a Holocaust film that isn’t really a Holocaust film. While it may be a true story with the Holocaust as its major driving plot point, it is ultimately something far more primal than just another Schindler’s List. It is a survival story about how people make it through times of trial. The Pianist argues that we are capable of great hurt towards each other, but it also argues that we are capable of great good. And we must seek to find ourselves in that good.

Adrien Brody is brilliant as Wladyslaw Szpilman, the titular character, who survives the Holocaust without ever going to a concentration camp.

He lives in a ghetto, works with those recruited to clean the ghetto out and slips between hiding spots in the last few years of the war.

In his final hiding spot, he is treated kindly by someone unexpected in a passage that underlines what unites us as humans and not what divides us.

Roman Polanski, the great director behind Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown, has created a moving work of art with this film after slumming it for years with the likes of The Ninth Gate. His camera work is almost journalistic. He shows us the horrors of the Holocaust without ever getting too attached to the images he is showing us. He is able to show us true horror without manipulating us.

I have gone on for far too long in this review and I have not been given a chance to talk about the stunning cinematography or the editing, which gives the film narrative drive, but also makes it seem as if years are passing.

The screenplay by Ronald Harwood is beautiful in its spareness and all of the other performances are pitch perfect.

In the end, if you’re looking for a quality film that will make you think and feel, you can’t do better than The Pianist.

5 stars