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'The Pianist' - the movie. What's your opinion? Polanski


Switezianka - | 463  
24 Sep 2008 /  #31
"The Pianist" is not a film made to cater to the most unsophisticated tastes and to evoke to anybody's nationalistic emotions. It is a film adaptation of memoires of a REAL person, who survived the war. This film is supposed to reconstruct the war reality, not present some cheesy infantile heroic stories that are an insult to the audience's intelligence.

For most people the war was about hiding around in holes like a rat and not knowing what is going on. Being helped by people they knew nothing about and struggling to save their lives, not fighting for honour or other crap. If you don't believe, get some fact-based war literature.

What I liked about "The Pianist" was the fact that it is not another piece of patriotic and ideological bulls.hit, but a realistic work which aims at showing us things as they were, without embellishing. And without attempting to get some irritating moral message in it.

Is your point that the jews in the ghetto didn't really suffer as much from the germans as from their own leaders? That's a theory I've never come across before.

I thought you were better at Jewish history. In case of [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordechai_Chaim_Rumkowski], there certainly were.
yehudi 1 | 433  
25 Sep 2008 /  #32
I thought i was too. But I don't understand what you are saying. Please explain.
anja_rose 3 | 37  
25 Sep 2008 /  #33
I have to say i agree with Switeziana.
Has anyone bothered to read the book?- Szpilmans own account of those years, his story- which no matter how much the film did do it justice- needs to be read in order to sense his own confusion and sadness at making sense of what happened, not just to him but to Europe and its people.

Putting pen to paper was therapeutic for Szpilman just as it was for the survivor Miklos Nyiszli(hungarian author of 'I was Doctor Mengeles Assistant' Now theres a book which should be made into a film) Primo Levi- one of the all time greatest writers of the Holocaust (note i said writers not people dont want to start any more arguments!!)

The book also has a very interesting foreward written by Szpilmans son.

Having surviving family members on my side who remember (and my partners deceased grandparents who survived Auschwitz) its is safe to say we will never know even a fraction of the heroism and human courage --along with the evil and cowardice- that was committed over those years, as it was lost in the ashes with those who disappeared into history without a trace, and for me its is the stories that we will never know, the people whose names which were cancelled out-erased, which make it the most tragic.
Magdalena 3 | 1,837  
25 Sep 2008 /  #34
"The Pianist" is not a film made to cater to the most unsophisticated tastes and to evoke to anybody's nationalistic emotions.

I would not say my taste is the most unsophisticated out there, and yet I feel what I feel. OK, I can understand that Szpilman did not really know himself what the heck was going on, and that was reflected in his memoirs and later in the film. Then why the touching "post-war" story of the noble German in the end credits? Why was this the only person the director, or maybe Szpilman himself, or his son, found worthy of memory and investigation?

For most people the war was about hiding around in holes like a rat and not knowing what is going on. Being helped by people they knew nothing about and struggling to save their lives, not fighting for honour or other crap. If you don't believe, get some fact-based war literature

I am seriously into reading WW2 memoirs and witness accounts. And I disagree with you saying that most people hid in holes. Most Jews, admittedly, did and had to (if I were hiding a Jew I would definitely want them to be as inconspicuous as possible). But - most people did their thing for the crap honour and fatherland thing, if it only meant collecting coats for Pawiak prisoners being shipped to concentration camps, or making food packets for prisoners. Normal, run-of-the-mill housewives organized stuff like that. They were not heroes, they did not belong to any underground army. People just felt this was the right thing to do. This crap honour stuff made people take Jews into their homes and so sign a death warrant on themselves and their families.
Switezianka - | 463  
26 Sep 2008 /  #35
Has anyone bothered to read the book?

I have. It's very interesting to compare the film to the book.

And I disagree with you saying that most people hid in holes. Most Jews, admittedly, did and had to

So what's surprising about a film about a Jew who was hiding and didn't know what's going on?

This crap honour stuff made people take Jews into their home

What has hiding someone at home got to do with honour? It's just helping another human being, just as sending someone some food or a coat to prison. It's a sing of compassion, opposed to encouraging kids to risk their lives in order to write some sign on a wall.

Then why the touching "post-war" story of the noble German in the end credits?

And why not?

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilm_Hosenfeld

Please explain.

You said you've never heard a theory that Jews suffered more from their own leaders than occupants. So, in case of Mordechai Rumkowski, a lot of Jews had such a theory. Many Jews in Lodz ghetto considered him a traitor and blamed him for many of their misfortunes.
JaneDoe 5 | 114  
26 Sep 2008 /  #36
I, as the viewer, would have liked to know at least something about the people who saved him - hid him in someone's apartment, brought him food, and finally died for him

Maybe somebody will make "Pianist 1/2" then, about these people, in the future.

I agree with EbonyandBathory that the movie was meant to say this one person's story.
Magdalena 3 | 1,837  
27 Sep 2008 /  #37
And why not?

This is not a satisfactory reply. I am not convinced that this particular person played the most important role in Szpilman's survival. Wikipedia says that he was helped by "his friends from Polskie radio and partly by Wilm Hosenfeld" - then why omit his friends' names and lives from the film?

I agree with EbonyandBathory that the movie was meant to say this one person's story.

Unfortunately, on his own, as one person, he would never have survived to tell the tale. And there would have been no story at all.

It's a sing of compassion, opposed to encouraging kids to risk their lives in order to write some sign on a wall.

No. It's a sign of courage. Compassion without courage is just empty blather. And honour is not a dirty word.
LAGirl 9 | 496  
27 Sep 2008 /  #38
The Painist is my favorite film what a wounderful sad bittersweet story of a brave person. good job on the movie.
z_darius 14 | 3,968  
27 Sep 2008 /  #39
It's a sing of compassion, opposed to encouraging kids to risk their lives in order to write some sign on a wall.

That is actually a big part of Polish history - trying to survive as a nation with its own culture and language. Polish language and culture were systematically destroyed for most the last 200+ years and you have a nerve to make such a comment?

I find your comment surprising, if not repulsive, especially that you appear to be a Pole, and you chose a nick-name that is a part of culture that was destined to be completely destroyed. Why don't you pick a nick such as Holda or Maria Morevna.

Those writings on the wall were more important in the survival of that culture than, it appears, you will ever be able to understand.
JaneDoe 5 | 114  
27 Sep 2008 /  #40
Unfortunately, on his own, as one person, he would never have survived to tell the tale. And there would have been no story at all.

Read the title once again. The people were a background; they were important, but once again, the movie is not about them.
z_darius 14 | 3,968  
27 Sep 2008 /  #41
That's gotta be the silliest commentary to a movie on PF yet.

Some things are self evident, I thought.

Imagine a guy. No people around him, no background. He is a pianist. Plays piano, or want to play piano. He's hungry. He lives in one hole or another and stays in hiding. And this for 2.5 hours.

What would a sense of such movie be?

The movie's background is critical to that movie. And while indeed, it is about him, the people around him are critical to the story. Polanski is not Spielberg, therefore Polanski's movie is more subtle than the crude "Schindler's List". The background and the background characters in both directors take completely different dimensions. Spielberg is a cheap thrills TV-commercial style director. Polanski is an artist and a philosopher.
yehudi 1 | 433  
28 Sep 2008 /  #42
You said you've never heard a theory that Jews suffered more from their own leaders than occupants. So, in case of Mordechai Rumkowski, a lot of Jews had such a theory. Many Jews in Lodz ghetto considered him a traitor and blamed him for many of their misfortunes.

That some of the Jewish leaders were traitors is certainly true. They were often not really leaders, but people that the Germans appointed because they knew they could be exploited to collaborate. But no one should get the idea that the situation of the Jews would have been better than it was under the germans if not for the misdeeds of the Jewish "leaders". It couldn't really be any worse than it was. Some jewish leaders tried to make things better, some tried to gain time by cooperating, some were corrupt. But the cause of all the suffering was the german policy - "the final solution" which no judenrat had the power to prevent or alleviate.

Also:
I agree with you on most things, but don't underestimate the importance of courage, honor and idealism that Magdalena talks about. Compassion isn't always enough. The ghetto uprising was all about courage and idealism, since it could obviously not have saved the Jews that remained in the ghetto. I'm sure many Poles had compassion for the suffering of the Jews, but I think it was those who had strong ideals, whether religious or political, that risked their lives to save Jewish lives. There were others who did it out of basic human decency. But maybe that's just another form of "honor' in its finest expression.

But going back to the movie: Like you say, it was the story of one man from his viewpoint. It doesn't have to express every aspect of what happened. Not every survivor is a hero. Not every hero holds a gun.
Switezianka - | 463  
28 Sep 2008 /  #43
Those writings on the wall were more important in the survival of that culture than, it appears, you will ever be able to understand.

Then, explain it to me: in what way did painting one sign on a wall help Polish culture survive? It wasn't even a part of the culture then, as it was invented during the war. Can you give me any cause and effect relationship? Do you really believed that it scared Germans and made them significantly less effective? I agree that e.g. blowing up rails by those kids was heroic - it paralyses the enemy, disables them to harm people at least for some time. But what does the anchor do?

Polish culture survived oppressions not because of graffiti but because of education and care of the language. Secret lessons during the times of bondage and also organized by during the second world war, smuggling and reading Polish literature when it was banned, speaking Polish, creating centres of Polish culture 'abroad' (e.g. in Paris) - these were actions thanks to which Polish culture has survived. It was risky and idealistic, I agree, but it was an effective way to fulfil those ideas.

Writing a sign on a wall only pissed Germans off and cheered Poles up. OK - that's a fine purpose but is it enough to risk a teenager's life?

Can't you see a difference between risking your life to save another human being and risking your life to tell your enemy "we're still here and we keep on fighting"?

There's some strange belief present in Polish culture which I really hate - the belief that whatever you do in the name of your ideals is good. Even if it hasn't got a chance to be effective, even if it can harm somebody, even if it's completely ill-conceived - it's great if it's done for some national ideas.

In my opinion acts which can only make things worse are just stupid, no matter what is the idea behind it. A lot of patriotic Polish talk concerns pointless acts of courage.

And honour is not a dirty word.

Honour is first of all some vague idea that has been long used as a tool to convince people to kill each other. Much more often than for noble actions.

The ghetto uprising was all about courage and idealism, since it could obviously not have saved the Jews that remained in the ghetto.

It's hard to compare the ghetto uprising idealism to the strange kind of idealism that occurs in Poland. The Jews in the ghetto had no chance for survival, and they, to put it simply, wanted to choose the way to die (at least, that is what Edelman's words imply). They had nothing to lose.

I think I'd do the same in their place: I would also rather get shot in fight than die of starvation.

Many times in Polish history there were times when Poles had no chance to win, as well. But any fight could only make their situation worse. But they still fought and brought more oppression to themselves and other Poles. And such people in Poland aren't considered reckless but heroic.
rdywenur 1 | 157  
28 Sep 2008 /  #44
Speaking of movies this one was on last night (The Pianist)
z_darius 14 | 3,968  
29 Sep 2008 /  #45
Then, explain it to me: in what way did painting one sign on a wall help Polish culture survive?

If you refrain from "putting words in my mouth" we may chat.

Writing a sign on a wall only pissed Germans off and cheered Poles up. OK - that's a fine purpose but is it enough to risk a teenager's life?

Secret lessons during the times of bondage and also organized by during the second world war, smuggling and reading Polish literature when it was banned

So how different is a word written on paper if you do not seem to have a problem with people risking their lives for it?

Ever watched "Zakazane Piosenki"?
Switezianka - | 463  
29 Sep 2008 /  #46
I never said I don't see a problem in it. I also think that if really your life is at risk, you should drop books down and wait for better times. I only say that it was effective and it was a reasonable attempt to save a culture. Cultures survive thanks to transferring them from generation to generation, and the transfer is all about education: children learn the language, customs, literature and art of their culture and thus carry it on. If you don't want your culture to die, teaching children is the only way to do it. If those kids felt like risking their freedom and future education (in most cases) to save the national cultural heritage, at least they did something that really fulfilled the purpose.
OP joepilsudski 26 | 1,389  
29 Sep 2008 /  #47
I am happy so many people saw this movie...I saw the movie again, on Saturday night (cable TV), and enjoyed it again...Since I am a musician, I could identify with Szpillman in that respect...But, also in the way that he handled the most brutalizing circumstances with a cool head, and a desire for life...I think Szpillman was a Polack thru and thru...And, I think the hand of Jesus Christ was on both Szpillman, and the German officer who helped him...One lived and one died, but both had the Lord with them.
McCoy 27 | 1,269  
29 Sep 2008 /  #48
today i saw the long interview with Szpilman on history channel. it was much much more interesting and much much more dramatic than the whole movie. what a extraordinary man what a great Pole.

pl.youtube.com/watch?v=5b4uD9wV-q8

after registering you'll be able to find the whole documentary here:
dokument.com.pl/forum/index.php
(polish with english subtitles). really worth seeing
LAGirl 9 | 496  
29 Sep 2008 /  #49
once again it was a very good movie.
Magdalena 3 | 1,837  
30 Sep 2008 /  #50
I got a bit sidetracked in my last posts, but if you don't mind I'd like to get back to discussing the film. Let's forget about what true courage is and whether or not honour is important enough to die for. Let's concentrate on the film instead; or rather on its presentation of events. But first, let me digress some more.

It really surprises me that nobody is interested in the people who helped Szpilman survive. Some of you said that they are not important, that they are just a bunch of nameless individuals who served the purpose of saving a great musician. I tried googling for them, using phrases such as "who saved Szpilman", and kept getting the unfortunate Wilm Hosenfeld time and time again. I only found ONE site which actually gives the names of some of these people: do you know who they are? There is at least one name you should recognize.

I quote from the site: "(...) looked after by Czeslaw and Helena Lewicki and Andrzej and Janina Bogucki and helped by Eugenia Uminska, Witold Lutoslawski, Edmund Rudnicki, Piotr Perkowski and many other, anonymous people.After the Warsaw Uprising he stayed in hiding, in the ruins of a burnt-out house, cut off from any help from his Polish friends. He was discovered by Wilm Hosenfeld, a Wehrmacht captain who provided him with food."

Witold Lutosławski... you know, the great Polish musician and composer? Even he didn't deserve a single sentence of recognition in the closing credits. Interesting, isn't it? A truly great composer risks his life to help a rather average (in professional terms) musician and composer of popular songs - because they are friends, or maybe simply out of good old-fashioned decency. This would have added some dimension to the film, but has been omitted completely. And if Lutosławski didn't make it, it's no surprise that lesser mortals who were only Szpilman's friends did not stand a chance either.

Wilm Hosenfeld... I feel sorry for him. He really hoped saving Szpilman would save his life in turn: but he wrote down Spielman instead of Szpilman and nobody was ready to believe his story. He must have been a decent enough guy, but kowtowing to him as Szpilman's "saviour" is surely a misunderstanding.

After the Warsaw Uprising the city was deserted. Szpilman could have pretty much gone anywhere, into any house, and taken any food (if any was left), books, pillows, eiderdowns, or whole pieces of furniture, without the intervention or permission of anybody, least of all a German soldier. Of course, Szpilman could have simply walked out of the city with the millions of people who were evacuated after the Uprising - even many Armia Krajowa soldiers managed to escape this way, though the Germans were on the lookout for military-looking youths. But he preferred to stay - so automatically became an outlaw again, as nobody was allowed to stay on (the punishment being death on sight). So yes, Wilm Hosenfeld did save Szpilman - by not killing him. Great. The thing is, many other German soldiers refrained from killing many other people in Warsaw at that time, as they were sick and tired of all the violence and destruction around them.

What am I driving at with all this?

There are many ways of telling a story, and The Pianist is Polański's way. By changing the name from Death of a City (Szpilman's original title) to The Pianist, Polański changed the whole perspective: where Szpilman saw himself as part of a dying community, as one of the many doomed inhabitants of his beloved city, Polański focuses solely on the individual, who is shown as fighting a losing battle against the whole world; even those who help him cannot be fully trusted; they take away Szpilman's watch (as if it was to be expected that they pay for his food and probably rent out of their own pockets); there is a hysterical anti-Semite on the landing (not completely surprising once you know that people from the whole building would be summarily executed if the Germans found out); there is not enough food (as if other Varsovians feasted daily on pheasants and champagne).

The Warsaw Uprising is shown as just another annoying nuisance to our poor hero, who loses contact with his useful Polish minions and thus is left to his own devices, the poor thing... And then comes the glorious day of meeting the angelic Wilm Hosenfeld, who DOES NOT KILL HIM! Oh, the wonderful, merciful German, how we are all supposed to adore him... Well, I don't, for that matter. I agree he behaved like a gentleman, but that's about it. If he were a Polish or Russian soldier, nobody would think twice about this "generous" gesture. But because he was German, and was supposed to kill, the contrast brings out a gratitude he does not really deserve (not to such a crazy extent, at any rate). So the overall impression we have is that Szpilman somehow miraculously survived on the Aryan side and then was saved by a good German soldier. To me, this is pure, thoroughbred propaganda.

Somehow I doubt Szpilman saw his story exactly this way; it is interesting that work on the film went ahead only after his death. You know?

One more grievance I have against this film is that it does not show any real glimpse of daily life in occupied Warsaw; we are not supposed to know that people disappeared from the streets every day (łapanki), that food was smuggled into the city from the surrounding villages by people brave enough (and admittedly capitalist-minded enough) to face death every day, that the punishment for harbouring a Jew was death for the whole family or household, that, in short, the whole city, on both the Jewish and Aryan side of the ghetto wall, was desperately short of food, exhausted by hard labour, and clutching at straws. "Death of a City" - a very apt title, too bad Polański did not respect even that.

Of course, it's a "good film" - but it's not a decent film. It leaves an aftertaste I do not like at all.
z_darius 14 | 3,968  
30 Sep 2008 /  #51
It really surprises me that nobody is interested in the people who helped Szpilman survive. Some of you said that they are not important, that they are just a bunch of nameless individuals who served the purpose of saving a great musician.

I agree with your points.
People have been conditioned to see in stories what is right in their eyes. The want action, a hero, a survivor or a villain. All those other people were "just a background". Really?

Did any of those who see the movie that way ever notice the music Szpilman plays? What is shown on screen while the music is played? Any aspiring literary/movie critic on the forum? Here's your chance for a great essay which would show the "background" is far more important in this movie that the Hollywood conditioned types would have you believe.

Heck, you could put together a decent M.A. thesis showing the critical importance of the "background" in "The Pianist". There is more than enough material for that. The trick is, you will probably have to have some Polish background as others would not readily spot, understand and be able to understand the symbols used by Polanski - a director who after all is soaked in Polish culture, history and tradition.
enkidu 7 | 623  
30 Sep 2008 /  #52
Gosh... I started it, so let me explain myself.

Every story may be told one way or another. It depends on the story-teller. If you want - you can tell the story of the "Three little Pigs" as a story of global warming for instance. ( You don't believe? ---- Three pigs as a symbol of humanity - greedy, self-centered and The Wolf - powers of nature which finally blow civilization away) It is the writer's, director 's or story-teller's choice how to tell the story.

As I said above, I think "The Pianist" should be boycotted in Poland. Because Mr. Polański chose to spit on our face. And we shouldn't pretend it's raining.

Be honest - after watching this film ( if you are Polish) aren't you ashamed to be Polish? Don't you feel the urge to explain to everybody the realities of Warsaw under german occupation? Don't you want to explain, to correct? Aren't you sorry? Because I am. That was a the master-plan of mr. Polański. That is the role he had chosen for you.

And once more: Szpilman was a Polish citizen. He survived occupation in Warsaw (this is a Polish city) helped by other Polish people. After the war he remained in Poland until his death. He was a Polish patriot. If somebody thinks that Poland and Polish people are only "not necessary background" to this story well - this person may accept a movie about the Eskimos without the snow. Of course somebody might tell the story about Eskimo on Greenland and don't even mention about ice and snow. He may tell a story "about individual" and leave all "background" untold. This would leave the viewer under the impression of Eskimos living in warm, mild Green-land. There is a good name for it. Propaganda.

"The Pianist" is anti-Polish propaganda and that is why it should be boycotted in Poland.

Howgh.
EbonyandBathory 5 | 249  
30 Sep 2008 /  #53
The logic here makes no sense. How can the film be both about a "Polish citizen" and "patriot" AND anti-Polish propoganda? Nobody is argueing that the Polish characters are unnecissary but we're talking about a story arc. I swear, the film that is being proposed here would be an unfocused 8-hour bohemoth with almost zero domestic box office appeal, wouldn't that have made "The Pianist's" american distributer, Universal, happy. I don't even like this film THAT much, but Good Lord, it's like none of you have every seen a movie before. Is the "The Godfather," anti-Japanese because it doesn't show members of the Japanese mafia?
OP joepilsudski 26 | 1,389  
30 Sep 2008 /  #54
What am I driving at with all this?

Yes, what?...It was only a movie, and a movie maker, in this case Polanski, often takes certain liberties with the written work the movie is based on...and remember: Polanski has some first hand experience with death, as his wife Sharon Tate, preganant at the time, was brutually murdered by Charles Manson's witches.

The Warsaw Uprising is shown as just another annoying nuisance to our poor hero, who loses contact with his useful Polish minions and thus is left to his own devices, the poor thing

I don't see this at all...Have you ever experienced sudden violence, or sudden catastrophe?...What happens to the person exposed to this is simple: they go into shock: I say this from first hand experience...Even trained military personel go through this....As far as losing his 'Polish minions', you degrade those Poles who helped him out of basic goodness...Also, Szpilmann lost his whole family suddenly...In the blink of an eye: One day life is relatively normal, even with the wickedness all around...then the wickedness strikes YOU, and everyone closest to you is gone, DEAD, never to be seen again...Think about that.
Magdalena 3 | 1,837  
1 Oct 2008 /  #55
I don't think, as far as thinking goes, that you have understood my post in the slightest. Probably my fault. Time to go.
Switezianka - | 463  
1 Oct 2008 /  #56
I thought that this film was not very difficult to interpret. How wrong I was...
OP joepilsudski 26 | 1,389  
1 Oct 2008 /  #57
I don't think, as far as thinking goes, that you have understood my post in the slightest.

I read and understood your post quite well...The point I was making was that mindless violence leaves one numb, and sometimes one must get past politics to recognise the effect this violence has on everyone.

I thought that this film was not very difficult to interpret. How wrong I was...

No, you were correct...Some posters have gotten too wrapped up in politics in regard to the film...I am guilty of this myself at times...But in the case of 'The Pianist', I thought the message was one of man's inhumanity to man, and also man's ability to endure through seemingly hopeless circumstances.
z_darius 14 | 3,968  
1 Oct 2008 /  #58
I thought that this film was not very difficult to interpret.

The film is very easy to interpret. Any difficulty lies in how you want to interpret it. Some people will read "The Great Gatsby" and they'll see it as a love story. Others will go through the bible and a truckload of other prior literature to show what they see as a "true" meaning of the short thingie.

Same difference with "The Pianist" or pretty much anything you come across in life. Some lick a stamp and send a letter. Others will buy a $100 binders and they'll put the stamp in there. Not even having licked them first ;)
anja_rose 3 | 37  
14 Oct 2008 /  #59
i thought that the book publishers chnged the books name from 'death of a city' to 'the pianist'-- this info can be found in the foreward in the book....well its in my copy which is entitled 'the pianist' anyhow...

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