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:: The Pianist

Each year, around Academy Award time, a collection of dazzling films hit the screens hoping to be in the running for the prize acclaim. While a wide array of films make it to the nomination stage, the historical epic is one type of film that, done well, will always be popular come award time. The Pianist, directed by legendary filmmaker Roman Polanski, succeeds as a chilling reminder of the brutal events that took place in Nazi occupied Poland between the years 1939 and 1945. While it is certainly not the first time that audiences have been witness to this terrifying chapter in wartime history, The Pianist puts forth a new insight into these events, from the point of view of someone who actually survived them.

The film exists as a first hand account of the Jewish genocide that took place all those years ago as written by Wladyslaw Szpilman in his autobiography of the same name. Penned in the years following the war, the account is fresh, objective and truthful and caught Polanski's eye as a tale worthy of cinematic presentation. A classical pianist, Szpilman holds the title of playing the last live music heard over Polish airwaves before the Nazis unleashed on the Jewish community. Along with thousands of others, Szpilman and his family were ordered to leave their homes and marked with the Star of David were confined to a Jewish district known in history books as the Warsaw Ghetto. Segregated from life as he knew it, Szpilman was witness to all kinds of brutality. Starvation, dislocation and despair ran
riot within the Ghetto as the Nazis systematically worked at wiping out the Jewish race through the confiscation of rights, possessions and in most cases, life. Using music as his guide through his terror riddled surroundings, Szpilman's quest through this period is nothing short of unsettling.

The first film that Polanski has shot in his homeland in forty years, the material struck a personal chord as he himself survived a spell in the Cracow Ghetto, escaping when he was seven. Having his own recollections of this period in time, The Pianist recreates the events and settings with unnerving realism. Viewers are able to construct a timeline of the period through the eyes of Szpilman, suffering his losses and dreading his fate. The narrative will have you shift in your seat as his situation deteriorates and the appalling actions of the Nazi regimen truly come to light.

Despite all this, The Pianist is a film that transcends war and its brutality. Interwoven with moments of hope, joy and human achievement Szpilman's tale is not out to depress but to illustrate how, at times, the odds are overcome.