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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Holocaust > WWII > The Pianist (2002/HD-DVD)

The Pianist (2002/HD-DVD)


Picture: B+†††† Sound: B†††† Extras: B†††† Film: B



Jean Luc-Godard once pointed out how many films about the Holocaust had been made and how most of them had been forgotten.Though he may have his reasons why, including the possible trivialization of the event, few films can make the big statement and make it stick when so many well intended projects try.Is Spielbergís Schindlerís List remembered because of its content, director or both?In any case, whatever it takes to make the point of how horrible it was and still is.


Roman Polanski had survived the events of the Nazi Occupation of Poland, but never dealt with it explicitly in a film, though it informs his best work (Rosemaryís Baby, Chinatown, Death & The Maiden) and the circumstances of the two horrific events that ruined part of his personal life, then drove him, to a criminal act that had him fleeing the U.S. forever.As inexcusable as the latter is, he can still direct films well and The Pianist (2002) was considered a major comeback for him as a figure of world cinema after being dormant and stuck in lesser film works for years, though I thought Death & The Maiden was grossly underrated.


Adrian Brody is Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Jewish piano player who hangs in there with his family in Poland until he is separated from them and has to find a way to stay alive as WWII goes into high gear.He has to negotiate endless situations that could have got him killed and are based on the autobiography of Szpilman as adapted very well into a screenplay by Ronald Harwood.Running 2.5 hours, the film never lets up, does not seem long and really is one of the few films that gets it right about the Holocaust, WWII, the way people acted and human nature.As a result, it stands out from most films on the subject and is one of the most personal films Polanski will ever make.


Then there is Brodyís remarkable performance, learning how to play piano for the role well enough to convince us he is a world class pianist, then playing a man who is a world class humanitarian just trying to survive one of the ugliest genocide campaigns ever.The Holocaust is such a dark, complex, deep subject and no matter how many films may be historically accurate, few are so dense that you feel like you are there and The Pianist will remain such a film for decades and centuries to come.It becomes a vital record of a past so easily forgotten, especially at a time when anti-Semitism and hatred in general are on the rise.No matter Polanskiís personal issues, he pulls off one of the ultimate anti-Fascist films and one you will never forget.


The 1080p VC-1 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image is very good, with nice depth and detail throughout with few limits.Pawel Edelmanís cinematography is impressive and Polanski has found another great partner writing in motion.For the money, costumes and production design are remarkable and this disc brings out the beauty and horror of the film in HD a lower def source never could.The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix is pretty good, though Polanski uses silence and subtle sounds effectively, so the surrounds are not in use all the time.However, there are some moments where the sound kicks in, including for the piano music, and it impresses in those moments.Extras include Szpilman playing piano from archive footage, behind the scenes in the making of the film, a featurette on making the film as authentic as possible and Polanskiís reflections on surviving the Nazi Occupation.The HDi function makes all this easier.


If you have not seen it, do so as soon as you can.



-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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