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The Pianist, 2002

Adrien Brody stars in this Roman Polanski-directed story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, an internationally renowned Jewish pianist living in Poland during World War II and his struggle with the help of the thread-bare resources of the Jewish resistance in Poland following the Nazi invasion, to stay alive and make it through the war.

There is little prelude, The Pianist opens with Szpilman playing live for a radio program in Poland while explosions are going off all around him. There is a cacophony interrupting his playing, but Szpilman soldiers on until, very literally, the rooms windows are blown in. Szpilman’s family discusses the war and its effects in their shared Polish apartment and soon the expected happens: they are marched off into ghettoes to endure brutal hardships and, in most cases, outright extermination. Throughout the war, from the invasion of Poland, to the deaths of Szpilman’s family in the death camps, through the calm before the Soviet invasion to retake German-occupied Poland, and finally to a present-day Szpilman playing before a contemporary audience, this film tells the story of an individual of such talent that even during its most dire period, while others are being systemically killed, an organized group of individuals selflessly preserved one of their living treasures in such a skilled pianist.

The story is very well-done and Brody’s performance is absolutely fantastic. That this is based on a true story is even more fantastical because the courage and bravery of the individuals who guard Szpilman even as they are killed, are based on real people’s true actions in working to spare Szpilman’s life. It is an important movie to see and in my opinion would rank equally for emotional impact with Schindler’s List.