on the pianist

February 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

on march 23, 2003, american actor adrien brody won the oscar for best actor in a leading role for his work in the pianist.  at age 29, he was the youngest actor to have ever been awarded the honour, and.. he was just dang cute.  watch.

—– [digression warning] —–

of course, halle berry got her revenge a few years later at the 2009 spike guys’ choice awards, when she was awarded the “decade of hotness” award……. not going to get started on the objectification of women and absolute absurdity of that title and all the feminist yada yada here… but uh, well deserved halle berry.  so history repeats itself:

—– [but back to adrien brody.] —–

yes, so he thoroughly charmed the academy and, what am i talking about, charmed me with those soulful eyes and depth, but his performance in the pianist is where he really shows his quality.

the pianist is a world war ii movie.      as for myself, i never really learned about world war ii or the holocaust until i was at least thirteen, but watching this movie on dvd with my mother one summer afternoon in 2003 as a young(-er) girl is one of my clearest memories of the last decade.  more specifically, the scene in which nazi officers storm into an apartment while a jewish family is companionably gathered around the dinner table for supper.. is stamped into my memory.  they order the family to stand, and while the mother, father, and their several children immediately comply, the wheel-chair bound grandfather obviously can not.  stand! stand!  the nazis bark, and when he remains unable to do anything but stay seated, they proceed to wheel him out to the balcony of their top-floor apartment.  they toss the elderly man out of his chair and out the window, where he hurtles to his death on the concrete below.

i remember not being able to grasp that this act of sheer sadism could be done to a fellow human being.  for some reason, i insisted replaying the scene over and over again, to the point where my mum probably thought i had potential as a future psychopath or something, i’m sure.  it was a gruesome introduction to the horrific realities of the world as it has been and how it can still be, and i was too stunned with the horror and incomprehensibility of it all to realize the quiet pathos and brilliance of adrien brody’s performance.


it wasn’t until about two weeks ago, when my little sis started nonchalantly writing up flash cards for social studies that said things like “anti-semitism: when people hate jews; auschwitz: where lots of jews died; crematorium: ovens to burn people”, that i thought it might be worthwhile to rent this movie again, bless her blissfully ignorant, oblivious soul..

the pianist is based on the true story/autobiography of the jewish-polish pianist, wladyslaw szpilman. it seems unfitting to explain more of his story here, for it is an exceptional one; one that might have a more profound effect if watched with no expectations or perceptions.  the director is roman polanski, who himself is polish and had a harrowing childhood with respect to world war ii:  although his parents and himself were non-religious, they were persecuted for their jewish background and were forced into the kraków ghetto, along with thousands of the city’s jews.  polanski’s mother died at auschwitz.  he himself survived (if you’ve watched the film, the scene with the train is similar to what happened to polanski as a child), as did his father, who lived to return from the mauthausen-gusen concentration camp in austria.  .. thus i can only imagine the depth of his personal connections to this film.

adrien brody himself seems to have invested a lot of himself in his performance; he was cast by polanski after over 1400 other actors had auditioned and failed to satisfy.  for the role, brody reportedly lost 14 kg (31 lbs) to obtain the emaciated, hungry figure of a starving war survivor.  (his daily diet for those who are interested: two boiled eggs and green tea for breakfast, a little chicken for lunch, and fish/chicken for dinner with steamed vegetables for six weeks.. he weighed 59 kg (130 lbs) during filming.)  to experience the feeling of loss for the role, he also sold his television, apartment, and car.   his efforts seem to have ah… certainly paid off:



and of course, a film wouldn’t be titled the pianist if it did not include the piano.  one of my favourite classical piano pieces, chopin’s nocturne in c-sharp minor is featured beautifully; if you’ve never heard it here it is below:

chopin’s nocturne in c-sharp minor

all in all a very poignant, sensitive film.  it seems unusual in the way it moves along almost.. passively, somehow, with a sense of detachment from the horror it shows.  it feels the way i imagine a victim of the situation might feel:  of course there is plenty to scream about, but what can you do in the face of such utter lunacy and hatred, but try to blot it out and be as apathetic as possible, if only to maintain your sanity? what do you do when you know there is nothing you can possibly do, except try to obliterate the pain that would otherwise cripple you, and look straight ahead and keep going?  that sense of numb, dispassionate survival infuses the entire film, and is what makes the ending that much more compelling.

best watched with loved ones.


-angie


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