The Pianist

[Amazon Link] [4.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

For some reason, we'd missed seeing this 2002 movie that got Adrien Brody a Best Actor Oscar and serious smoochery with Halle Berry. As I type, it is #56 on IMDB's list of the 250 Best Movies of All Time, it has a solid 95% on the TomatoMeter, and I probably should have liked it even more than I did.

Brody plays Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Jew with the misfortune to be living in Warsaw in September 1939 as WWII kicks off with the invasion of Poland. In a stunning opening scene, he is playing the piano for a live radio broadcast as the bombs begin to fall. Everyone's telling him to stop and run for cover; he continues playing until (nearly literally) the walls are falling down around him. A neat picture of artistic devotion, married to a spacy detachment from the real world.

It's based on a true story. While I kept expecting Spillman to (for example) participate in the Ghetto Uprising, or some other act of resistance, his actions are limited to observing the horror and trying to survive, mainly by dumb luck and the goodwill of others. One of the most powerful developments happens near the end, when he's harbored by a German officer. Just before the closing credits, it's revealed that the German met a richly undeserved fate. Just like pretty much every other decent person in the movie.

The movie is unrelenting in its depiction of the horrible degredation and violence unleashed against the Polish Jews. It's also an unambiguous condemnation of passivity in the face of oppression and aggression.

So after all that, I feel a little guilty that I liked Adrien Brody in King Kong better. Moviewise, under this aging exterior, I'm still a teenage philistine at heart …

Last Modified 2012-10-12 8:35 AM EST