Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Music saves lives

"Thank God, not me. He wants us to survive. Well, that's what we have to believe."

Nothing can stop a musical mind, it is very difficult to break the outflow of music and it takes an explosion to shake it off the musician. The Pianist (2002) begins with Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody), a Polish-Jewish pianist who is lost in playing the piano on radio as the German troops attack the station during World War II. Based on the real life holocaust survival experience of Polish pianist and composer Wladyslaw Szpilman, the movie also has connections with director Roman Polanski's escape from the Krakow Ghetto after the death of his mother.

The story's main focus isn't on how badly the Jews were treated under the hands of Nazi Germany but at the same time it shows the harsh reality of what they went through. There is not a scene in this movie which shows any kind of extreme torture however there is total honesty that will leave you speechless. It shows how they were treated like dirt and forced to stay away from the city in their own so-called Jewish district. Szpilman's family once rejoiced the fact that the British and French would initiate a war against Germany but their happiness was short-lived as they ended up being oppressed by them. Such was their misery that they went from being in a nice and comfortable house to a small, crammed apartment. Polanski has focused on the details as he shows how the hatred against Jews grew since the time the Germans captured Warsaw. There is a scene in which the Jews are waiting to cross the tracks and the German soldiers make the old, weak and disabled dance just for a few laughs. Poverty and hunger led to diseases and deaths both mental and physical. With so much happening around him, Szpilman still managed to keep himself together with hope that things will get back to normal soon. He lost his job as the radio station got bombed and ended up playing in a restaurant where there wasn't much appreciation for his music. On the other hand his brother Henryk (Ed Stoppard) who is shown as a rebel right from the beginning is on the brink of exploding with all the growing tensions. There is so much injustice shown against the Jews in such little time that it makes one wonder if it really happened.

Radio announcer: "Poland is no longer alone."
Now, that is just one side of the story which brings us to the most difficult part in Szpilman's life: survival. He lost his entire family as they were constantly moved and finally transported to meet their end. He was lucky to escape his end and thus his quest to stay alive had begun. It wasn't easy for a Jew to just walk around the streets without being beaten up or shot in the head unless he was one of the few select ones who worked as labourers. Fortunately for him, he was one of them. What was once his home had become a minefield with no option but to walk over it. Brody is terrific in his role, his quiet suffering is moving and the way he has delivered the impersonation of a man who witnesses everything dear to him disappear helplessly, is highly impressive. Szpilman gets busy fighting death and hiding from one place to another with the help from a few good people, becomes a part of a failed revolution started against the Germans and finally ends up sick and alone. Through all his escapades his music was always there with him, deep in his mind and heart and it was the main reason that kept him alive. There is not a single moment during his struggle that didn't keep me involved right from the beginning till the very end. With Germany getting under pressure to surrender as the Soviet army fought hard to end their control in Poland, Szpilman was sick and hurt by then and sought refuge in a house, of course in the form of hiding. His encounter with a German officer there turns out to be the different from his previous ones. The initial reason for his doom was the reason behind him surviving in the end.

"They all want to be better Nazis than Hitler."

There are many true stories that have been turned into movies and books. Some are accepted as truthful, others as fictional (despite the historical data) but they are all inspirational.
After watching this movie, I was saddened by the immense suffering of the Jews and at the same time amazed by Szpilman's determination to make it till the end. Polanski has managed to show the ugly truth without stressing much on the visual aspect of it. The performances of all the characters are commendable and touching especially Adrien Brody's Szpilman who lost everything but his music which becomes one of the main reasons behind his survival. Music was his passion, Survival his masterpiece.


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