The Pianist (2002) – Roman Polanski

I saw Roman Polanski’s 2002 film The Pianist today. The story about a Jewish piano player and his time in the Warsaw Ghetto. I have never seen a bad film by Polanski, in my view he is one of the greatest post-war cineasts and this film is no exception. While I recently said that there can be no fictional narrative of Auschwitz (thinking of the faux realism of Schindler’s List black and white footage) this film sort of changed my mind. I thought that it was very realistic in its portrayal of the atrocities committed by the Germans and the gradual build-up of the dehuminazation of the Jews. The film is also a testament to the value of art and music, a bit contrary to Adorno’s famous statement that “there can be no art after Auschwitz.”

Searching for polanski+pianist+schindler+black and white+spielberg+verisimilitude brings up two good reviews, the first by Clive James and one by

Trivia: I cried when the wheel-chaired bound man was thrown of the balcony and the men were shot and driven over by the Germans. I laughed when one of the brothers told the story of the surgeon who was brought to the ghetto to operate on someone, and was subsequently shot along with the anaesthetized patient.

See also: verisimilituderealism in film the Holocaust in art and fiction

4 thoughts on “The Pianist (2002) – Roman Polanski

  1. jahsonic


    Yes, commentary tracks, I haven’t done them yet, but I find them a very interesting phenomenon (just like the subtitles for the hearing impaired). What I read about them is about Kevin Costner’s commentary on The Postman is one big apology. Actually, I liked the film.

    Polanski: he is so aware of the human condition, or should I say my human condition. Many of his films are not feelgood at all, but still. I only saw The Tenant about a year ago and it totally blew me away. His work reminds me of Cronenberg, another of my heroes.

    Have you read Laura Mulvey’s book (I haven’t) Death 24 times a second, which, if I interpreted the book info correctly, is about how VCR and DVD have altered the film experience?

    So I gather that if you call “The Ninth Gate, a ho-hum movie with a fantastic commentary track”, you preferred the commentary track to the film? The same happened to me when I saw Bresson’s Pickpocet and I liked the interview with Bresson better than the film itself. An instance of when the paratext is more interesting than the text itself?. Interesting.

  2. girish

    Jan, I purchased Mulvey’s book a few weeks ago but haven’t had a chance to crack it open yet. And The Ninth Gate didn’t seem to me one of Polanski’s stronger films. Yes, The Tenant is classic Roman! I also have a great irrational love for his 1988 Hitchcockian thriller Frantic.

    Recommended for Polanski lovers is a documentary by the British journalist Mark Cousins which is an extended (and most enjoyable!) interview with the man. I saw it in Montreal a few years ago but it hasn’t turned up in the States as far as I know.

    Thanks for introducing me to a new word, paratext!

  3. jahsonic


    Yes, The Tenant is my favourite too, and Knife in the Water and Cul-de-sac are runners-up. The latter two are perfect examples of the sex wars.

    Now, I do not necessarily admire Polanski for his filmic qualities, but more for his choice of subject matter. If he’d have lived in the 18th century, he’d ‘ve probably been a writer and I’d ‘ve admired him just as much.

    My favourite scene in The Tenant is when Polanski and Adjani go to the cinema and their mutual attraction is almost palpable. This attraction becomes palpable again in the church/funeral scene with almost with devastating effect. And then of course the double suicide, tragic, all too tragic.

    About the new word: thanks for the compliment, I like the term a lot because it allows you to like certain products not for the product itself but for everything which surrounds it.

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