The Pianist

Release Date: December 27, 2002
Limited release

Jokes just aren't funny in relation to this one.

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Winner of the coveted Palme d'Or at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, The Pianist is based on the true-life story of renowned Polish musician Wladyslaw Szpilman, who was forced to evade capture by the Nazis in his war-torn hometown of Warsaw. Critics are almost universally calling the film a triumph for director Roman Polanski, so it only makes sense that Universal Focus would schedule its US release just in time for Academy Awards® consideration. The director is himself a survivor of the Krakow and Warsaw ghettos during World War II, so all indications are that the film is extremely authentic and moving.

The Pianist departs from the typical tone of most films on the subject of the Holocaust, as this story involves an artist's subjective journey. At the outset of the tale in 1939, Szpilman is performing classical compositions on the radio as bombs begin to fall on Warsaw. As the months pass, the pianist sees more and more restrictions placed on the Polish Jews and his family is eventually rounded up to be shipped off to labor camps. Szpilman manages a dramatic escape and hides in various apartments throughout the city for the duration of the war.

Playing the pivotal role of Szpilman is Adrien Brody, who has previously worked with such directors as Spike Lee, Terrence Malick and Barry Levinson. Another unseen character in the film is the actual musical score, as Szpilman is considered perhaps the best pianist in Polish history. Portions of the score can be heard at the official Web site for The Pianist, and the pieces selected are moody, evocative, and very memorable.

As far as awards consideration and box office, The Pianist may suffer slightly by being the second film to deal with the subject of the Holocaust in a matter of months. Tim Blake Nelson's The Grey Zone is currently scheduled to hit theaters first, and that film is also receiving some strong critical acclaim. It appears that a great deal will hinge on the different approaches used in each film, with The Grey Zone being somewhat more ensemble-driven while The Pianist is a great deal more character-focused. Brody's performance has been collectively lauded thus far, and he may be an early contender for some end-of-year awards. Still, it's important to note that Palme d'Or winners are generally inconsistent with the choices of the Academy, with Secrets and Lies, Pulp Fiction, and The Piano being the most recent films to cross over for Best Picture nods. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

Vital statistics for The Pianist
Main Cast Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Emilia Fox, Ed Stoppard
Supporting Cast Frank Finlay, Julia Rayner, Jessica Kate Meyer, Nina Franoszek, Maureen Lippmann, Valentine Pelka, Ruth Platt, Ronan Vibert
Director Roman Polanski
Screenwriter Ronald Harwood
Distributor Focus Features
  • Palme d'Or, 2002 Cannes Film Festival
  • Best Director, 2003 Academy Awards
  • Best Actor, 2003 Academy Awards
  • Best Adapted Screenplay, 2003 Academy Awards

Awards page for The Pianist
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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