The Pianist (2002 film)

The Pianist (2002 film)

name = The Pianist

caption =
director = Roman Polanski
producer = Roman Polanski
Robert Benmussa
Alain Sarde
writer = Ronald Harwood (Screenplay)
Władysław Szpilman (Book)
starring = Adrien Brody
Thomas Kretschmann | cinematography = Paweł Edelman
editing = Hervé de Luze
distributor = Focus Features
released = 24 May, 2002 (premiere at Cannes)
6 September, 2002 (Polish premiere)
December 13, 2002 (Spain)
December 27, 2002 (USA, limited)
3 January, 2003 (USA, wide)
24 January, 2003 (Canada)
24 January, 2003 (UK)
6 March, 2003 (Australia)
music = Wojciech Kilar
Frederic Chopin
runtime = 150 min.
country = France / Poland / Germany / UK
language = English
budget = $35,000,000 (estimated)
imdb_id = 0253474

"The Pianist" is a 2002 Polish-French-German-British co-produced film directed by Roman Polanski, starring Adrien Brody. It is an adaptation of the autobiography of the same name by Jewish-Polish musician Władysław Szpilman.

In addition to the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the film won the Oscars for Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It was also awarded seven French Césars including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor for Brody


Wladyslaw Szpilman, a famous Polish Jewish pianist working for Warsaw radio, sees his whole world collapse with the outbreak of World War II and the invasion of Poland in September 1939. After the radio station is rocked by explosions from German bombing, Szpilman goes home and learns that Great Britain and France have declared war on the Nazis. He and his family rejoice, believing the war will end quickly.

When the Nazis' armed SS organization occupies Warsaw after the regular army passes on, living conditions for the Jewish population gradually deteriorate as their rights are slowly eroded: first they are allowed only a limited amount of money per family, then they must wear armbands imprinted with the blue Star of David to identify themselves, and eventually, late in 1940, they are all forced into the squalid Warsaw Ghetto. There, they face hunger, persecution and humiliation from the SS occupants and the ever present fear of death or torture. The Nazis became increasingly sadistic and the family experiences and/or witnesses many horrors inflicted on their neighbours.

Before long, the family, along with thousands of others, is rounded up for deportation by train to the extermination facility at Treblinka. Szpilman sees his brother reading from William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice." He asks him to read aloud, and he reads: "If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? If you wrong us, do we not revenge?" Szpilman remarks that it is an appropriate play for their situation. His brother responds, "That's why I brought it." As the Jews are being forced onto cattle cars, Szpilman is saved at the last moment by one of the Jewish Ghetto Police, who happens to be a family friend.

Separated from his family and loved ones, Szpilman manages to survive. At first he is pressed into a German reconstruction unit inside the Ghetto as a slave labourer. During this period another Jewish labourer confides to Szpilman two critical pieces of information: one, that many Jews who still survive know of the German plans to exterminate them, and two, that a Jewish uprising against the Germans is being actively prepared for. Szpilman volunteers his help for the plan. He is enlisted to help smuggle weapons into the Ghetto, almost being caught at one point. Later, before the uprising starts, Szpilman decides to go into hiding outside the ghetto, relying on the help of non-Jews who still remember him.

While living in hiding, he witnesses many horrors committed by the SS, such as widespread killing, beating, and burning of Jews and others (the burning is mostly shown during the two Warsaw uprisings). Szpilman also finally witnesses the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising he helped to bring about, and its aftermath as the SS forcibly enters the ghetto and kills nearly all the remaining insurgents.

Among the staff of the SS ghetto outpost, a figure (revealed as Josef Blösche after the war) specialized in finding remaining hidden Jews; he executed about 2000 for no reason and with no mercy, including pregnant women and infants. Two scenes resemble Blösche's typical actions as witnessed by victims or his former SS comrades: [German TV Documentary (2003) "Der SS-Mann Josef Blösche - Leben und Sterben eines Mörders" (The SS figure Josef Blösche - A Murderer's Life and Death), based on court case archives etc., see also] in one scene, Blösche cold heartedly selects and then executes a number of captured Jews who he deems not young or fit enough for construction labor. In the other scene, his response to a young mother's inquiry about the deportation destination is to shoot her in the forehead, a scene inspired by director Roman Polanski's own childhood in the ghettoes witnessing a similar event.

A year goes by and life in Warsaw further deteriorates. Szpilman is forced to flee his first hiding place, after a neighbour detects his presence and threatens to inform on him. In his second hiding place, near a German military hospital, Szpilman nearly dies due to jaundice and malnutrition. In August 1944, the Polish resistance mounts the Warsaw Uprising against the German occupation. Warsaw is virtually levelled and depopulated as a result. After the surviving Warsaw population escapes from the ruins, and the SS then escapes from the approaching Russian army, Szpilman is left entirely alone.

In buildings still standing, he searches desperately for food. While trying to open a can of Polish pickles, Szpilman realizes to his horror that he is being watched from behind. But then he realizes that he has not been discovered by a SS ghetto patrol, but by a Captain of the regular German army, Wilm Hosenfeld. Hosenfeld asks the initially perplexed Szpilman to play something for him on the grand piano that happens to be in the building. The decrepit Szpilman, only a shadow of the flamboyant pianist he once was, gives a performance of Chopin's Ballade in G minor for Hosenfeld. Hosenfeld is touched, and lets him continue hiding in the attic of the building. He even brings Szpilman food regularly, thus saving his life. "(Note: Most viewers mistakenly think Hosenfeld saves Szpilman because of his piano playing. However, Hosenfeld had saved many Polish Jews in 1940.)"

Another few weeks go by, and the Germans troops are forced to withdraw from Warsaw due to the advance of the Red Army troops. Only before leaving the area, Hosenfeld asks Szpilman what his name is, and, upon hearing it, remarks that it is apt for a pianist (Szpilman is a homonym for the German "Spielmann", meaning "man who plays"). Hosenfeld also promises to listen for Szpilman on Polish radio. He gives Szpilman his Wehrmacht uniform coat and leaves. Later, that coat nearly proves fatal for Szpilman when Polish troops, liberating what remains of Warsaw, mistake him for a German officer and shoot at him. He is eventually able to convince them that he is Polish, and they stop shooting. When harshly asked, "Why the fucking coat?" the haggard Szpilman simply replies, "I'm cold."

As newly-freed prisoners of a concentration camp walk home, they pass a fenced-in enclosure of German prisoners of war, guarded by Red Army soldiers. A German prisoner, who turns out to be Hosenfeld, calls out to the passing ex-prisoners. Hosenfeld begs one of them, a musician of Szpilman's acquaintance, to contact Szpilman to free him. Szpilman, who has gone back to playing live on Warsaw radio, arrives at the site too late; all the prisoners have been removed along with any trace of the stockade. In the film's final scene, Szpilman triumphantly performs Chopin's "Grand Polonaise brillante" in E flat major to a large audience in Warsaw. Title cards shown just before the end credits reveal that Szpilman continued to live in Warsaw and died in 2000, but that Hosenfeld died in 1952 in a Soviet prisoner-of-war camp.


The story had deep connections with director Roman Polanski because he escaped from Krakow Ghetto as a child after his mother died. He ended up living in a sympathetic farmer's barn until the war's end. His father almost died in the camps, but they reunited after the end of World War II.

Principal photography on "The Pianist" began on 9 February 2001 in Babelsberg Studios in Potsdam, Germany. The Warsaw Ghetto and the surrounding city were recreated on the backlot of Babelsberg Studios as they would have looked during the war. Old Soviet army barracks were used to create the ruined city, as they were going to be destroyed anyway.

The first scenes of the film were shot at the old army barracks. Soon after, the filmmakers moved to a villa in Potsdam, which served as the house where Szpilman meets Hosenfeld. On 2 March 2001, filming then moved to an abandoned Soviet army hospital in Belitz, Germany. The scenes that featured the Germans destroying the hospital with flame throwers were filmed here. On March 15 filming finally moved to Babelsberg Studios. The first scene shot at the studio was the scene Szpilman witnesses a resistance mounted by the Jews from the Ghetto, which is eventually ended by the Nazis. The scene was complex and technically demanding as it involved various stunts and explosives. Filming at the studios ended on 26 March and moved to Warsaw on 29 March. The rundown district of Praga was chosen for filming because of its abundance of original buildings. The art department built on to these original buildings, re-creating World War II–era Poland with signs and posters from the period. Additional filming also took place around Warsaw. The Umschlagplatz scene where Szpilman, his family and hundreds of other Jews wait to be taken to the concentration camps was filmed at a local Military Academy.

Principal photography ended in July 2001, and was followed by months of post-production, which took place in Paris, France, where Polanski was born and now resides.


The film was released on DVD on May 27, 2003 in a two-disc-in-one Special Edition DVD. The front part of the disk had the film with no bonus material. The back part of the film included the Bonus Material. Some Bonus Material included "The Making of The Pianist", "Behind the Scenes interviews with Oscar Winners Adrien Brody, Roman Polanski and Ronald Harwood" and "Clips from Wladyslaw Szpilman playing the piano" and much more.


:"For more details on the soundtrack, see The Pianist (soundtrack).
*The piano piece heard at the beginning of the film is Chopin's "Nocturne in C-sharp minor (Lento con gran espressione)", Op. posth.
* The piano music heard in the abandoned house when Szpilman had just discovered a hiding place in the attic was the "Moonlight Sonata" by Beethoven. It would later be revealed that German officer Hosenfeld was the pianist. The German composition juxtaposed with the mainly Polish/Chopin selection of Szpilman.
*The piano piece played when Szpilman is confronted by Hosenfeld is Chopin's "Ballade No. 1 in G minor", Op. 23. Also, the version played in the movie was shortened. The entire piece lasts 9-10 minutes.
*The cello piece heard at the middle of the film, played by Dorota, is the Prelude from Bach's "Cello Suite No. 1".
*The piano piece heard at the end of the film, played with an orchestra, is Chopin's "Grande Polonaise brillante", Op. 22.
*Shots of Szpilman's hands playing the piano in close-up were provided by Polish classical pianist Janusz Olejniczak(b. 1952)., who also provided the soundtrack.
*Since Polanski wanted the film to be as realistic as possible, Brody spent months reworking his piano technique, and any scene showing Brody playing was actually him playing. Anything else was provided by Janusz Olejniczak.


*Adrien Brody - Władysław Szpilman
*Thomas Kretschmann - Captain Wilm Hosenfeld
*Frank Finlay - Father Szpilman
*Maureen Lipman - Mother Szpilman
*Emilia Fox - Dorota
*Ed Stoppard - Henryk
*Julia Rayner - Regina
*Jessica Kate Meyer - Halina
*Michał Żebrowski - Jurek
*Richard Riding - Mr. lipa



* Academy Award for Best Actor - Adrien Brody
* Academy Award for Best Director - Roman Polanski
* Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay - Ronald Harwood
* Palme d'Or
* BAFTA Award for Best Film
* BAFTA Award for Best Direction - Roman Polanski
* César Award for Best Actor
* César Award for Best Director
* César Award for Best Film
* César Award for Best Music Written for a Film
* César Award for Best Cinematography
* César Award for Best Production Design
* César Award for Best Sound
* Goya Award for Best European Film


* Academy Award for Best Cinematography - Paweł Edelman
* Academy Award for Best Costume Design - Anna B. Sheppard
* Academy Award for Film Editing - Hervé de Luze
* Academy Award for Best Picture
* BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography - Paweł Edelman
* BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role - Adrien Brody
* BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay - Ronald Harwood
* BAFTA Award for Best Sound - Jean-Marie Blondel, Dean Humphreys, Gérard Hardy

ee also

* Władysław Szpilman, pianist, composer, and author of "The Pianist" (memoir).
* World War II — German invasion of Poland and Warsaw (1939); Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto (1943); and the later, larger Warsaw Uprising (1944).
* Wilm Hosenfeld, German officer and pianist.
* Frédéric Chopin, Polish pianist, composer ("Ballade" No. 1 in G minor, etc.), and patriot.
* Henryk Wars, composer of song "Umówiłem się z nią na dziewiątą".
* For other films titled "The Pianist", see Pianist (disambiguation).
*List of Holocaust films


External links

* [ Official website]
* [ "The Pianist"] at Rotten Tomatoes
* [ Władysław Szpilman information and biography]
* United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - [ Szpilman's Warsaw: The History behind The Pianist]

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before = ""
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title = BAFTA Award for Best Film
years = 2003|
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title=César Award for Best Film
after="The Barbarian Invasions"

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