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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Pianist can be found here.
Szpilman wrote his book, originally titled Smierc miasta 1939-45 /Death of a City in 1946, right after the end of WW2, so his memory of events was still vivid. Unfortunately, the book was suppressed by the Soviets until it was finally republished in 1998 as The Pianist: The Extraordinary Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945. Szpilman's book was adapted for the movie in a script by Ronald Harwood, which can be seen here.
Very closely. Director Roman Polanski appears to have kept the story intact, even though he added a few scenes based on his own memories. Many of the scenes and, sometimes, the exact conversations in the book appear in the movie. However, there are a few obvious discrepancies. For example, the Dorota (Emilia Fox) character does not appear in the book. Also, Polanski seems to have taken some liberties with the sequence of events as they happened in the apartments where Szpilman (Adrien Brody) hid. To really make note of the differences and similarities between book and movie, it's suggested that you read the book. You won't be disappointed.
Technically there are no songs in The Pianist, because songs have lyrics. Almost all the pieces that Szpilman plays during various parts of the movie are piano works by Frederic Chopin. When Polish radio is first bombed, Szpilman is playing the Nocturne in C# minor, No. 20, Op. post.. When the German officer (Hosenfeld) asks Szpilman to play for him, he plays Ballad No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23. When the occupation is over and Szpilman returns to Polish radio, he plays the same music he was playing when the bombing first began: Nocturne in C# minor, No. 20, Op. post. While the ending credits are rolling, Szpilman is playing the Grande Polonaise brilliante, Op. 22. There is one tune that Szpilman plays in the movie, in the scene when he is entertaining the customers of the bar in the ghetto, that was a popular pre-war song called Umowilem sie z nia na dziewiata, but of course it's the instrumental version.
Suite No. 1 BWV 1007 for Solo Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach.
Indeed, there were two blonde women in the movie, making it confusing to tell one from the other. The blonde whom Szpilman meets during the bombing of Polish radio and with whom he seems to have a budding romance is Dorota. Dorota is not in Szpilman's book and appears to be a made-up character for the movie, probably to give a look at Szpilman's life before the occupation and to evoke audience sympathy for all that he lost during the war. The later scenes, in which Szpilman stays with pregnant Dorota and her husband, are also fabricated for the movie. Janina Godlewska (Ruth Platt) is the other blonde. The real Janina Godlewska was a Polish singer. She and her actor husband, Andrzej Bogucki (Ronan Vibert), knew Szpilman through their shared involvement in the performing arts. It was Godlewska that Szpilman saw in the marketplace and her and her husband to whom he turned when he decided to go into hiding. To read a two-page excerpt from Szpilman's book that tells how the real Janina and Andrzej helped him go into hiding, go to Google Books and do a search on "Szpilman Janina".
Yes. That person went by the name of Rubenstein (played by Popeck) and was a well-known funny man to the residents of the Warsaw ghetto. Szpilman mentions Rubenstein in his book, describing how he would make his way down the street, ragged and disheveled, making everyone laugh as he hopped and jumped, hummed and murmurred to himself, and called the German guards 'scallywags', 'bandits', and other more obscene names. Even the Germans thought he was hilarious and would toss him cigarettes and coins. Szpilman admits that he wasn't sure whether Rubenstein was a madman or simply someone who had found a way to subsist in the deplorable conditions of the ghetto.
There are a few parts in the movie that aren't in English and aren't subtitled either. When the German soldiers are forcing the "Jew dance" on the residents of the ghetto as they wait to cross the street, one of the soldiers keeps shouting "Schneller! Schneller!" [English: Faster! Faster!] to the band as well as the people they're forcing to dance. Before that one of the soldiers asks the waiting ghetto residents how they like the music and would they like to dance to it. Another scene is when Rubenstein gets a cigarette from the German soldier. He first says (in German) "Oh, two bandits! Boom Boom!" when he pretends to shoot them with his cane. Then he says "Ah, a cigarette! Thank you very much." He finally says over and over "Alle gleich" which means "All are equal" ... commented by a German soldier with something like "But we germans are more equal than others".
According to the Pabst plan, Warsaw's ghetto population was to be reduced in half, to 500,000. Jewish policemen were to accomplish this by delivering five people a day to the deportation area, an extremely difficult task because the unfortunates would try to hide or run away. After Henryk (Ed Stoppard) and Halina (Jessica Kate Meyer) were selected as fit to work in the ghetto, they found out that the rest of the family was taken away to the Umschlagplatz so they volunteered to join them even though they were not on the list for resettlement. The policeman was delighted because they made his job easier.
The scene in which Hosenfeld asks Szpilman to play the piano is often referred to by those who assume that Hosenfeld spared Szpilman because he recognized Szpilman's great talent. In reality, Szpilman was just one of many Poles and Jews that Wilm Hosenfeld saved from death until his capture by the Soviets in 1945. In Hosenfeld's diary, available at the back of Szpilman's book The Pianist: The Extraordinary Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945, Hosenfeld wrote about the many horrors he witnessed being committed against Jews and Poles and expressed his intention to save as many as he could. His high rank in the German army allowed him to provide working papers for Jews and Poles, even employing some of them himself in a sports stadium that was under his command. Unfortunately, Hosenfeld was treated brutally by the Soviets who thought that his claims to have saved many Poles and Jews were merely lies. He died in a Soviet detention camp in 1952.
According to the movie as well as Szpilman's book, he last saw his family when they boarded the train to the Treblinka death camp. Szpilman himself assumes that they were exterminated, and no record of their fate remains.
Szalas (Andrew Tiernan) was the greedy guy who pocketed the money for Szpilman's food and left him to starve. In his book, Szpilman tells the story a bit differently from the movie. Szpilman had several people taking care of him during that time and actually moved from apartment to apartment. After Gestapo raided the apartment of his first caretaker Mr. Lewicki (in the movie he was merged with another person from the book, engineer Gebczynski), Lewicki and Gebczynski went into hiding and Lewicki's brother took over. Since Gestapo was on their trail with secret agents constantly watching the building where Szpilman lived they had to recruit someone new to look after Wladyslaw. This was a very dangerous duty because, in Nazi-occupied Poland, helping Jews was punished with death up to three family generations. In this situation the underground organization assigned one of its activists and a radio engineer, Szalas to bring food and news to Wladyslaw. So, unlike Szpilman's friends Szalas wasn't helping him out of his own choice but acted on orders. He turned out to be a greedy opportunist who took advantage of the situation and left Szpilman for dead. Fearing reprisal for his actions, he disappeared with the money he amassed on Wladyslaw's behalf so no one knows what happened to Szalas.
Adrien's father, retired history teacher Elliot Brody, is of Polish-Jewish descent. Adrien's mother, photojournalist Sylvia Plachy, was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1943 to a Catholic father and Jewish mother. When the Plachy family fled Hungary in 1956, Sylvia lived for a short time in Vienna before immigrating to the United States in 1958, where she was raised Catholic. Adrien was brought up Catholic but identifies with both religions as per an undated interview in which interviewer Emily Blunt questions Adrien about being selected to play Jack Starks in The Jacket. She quotes director John Maybury as saying Brody "got the part because you look like an Arab but you're a nice Jewish boy from the Bronx." Adrien's reply: "But John is wrong. I don't feel like I look like an Arab, nor am I from the Bronx, and I am Jewish and Catholic."
Yes and no. Brody wasn't green at playing the piano, as he had taken piano lessons as a child. He admits, however, that he had to study every day for several months to play the Chopin pieces that he was shown playing in the movie because director Roman Polanski wanted the scenes to be realistic and did not want to rely on handovers. Basically, when you see Brody playing piano, he is really playing the piece. When you see hands, it is the famous Polish pianist Janusz Olejniczak. So, Brody performed Nocturne in C# minor in the opening scenes when the radio station was bombed as well as in his return to the radio after the Holocaust. [NOTE: It is said that the real Szpilman did the same; that is, he opened his return to Polish radio with Chopin's Nocturne in C# minor, the same selection he was playing during the 1939 bombing. Watch Brody's face for a wince at that actual moment.] Brody also did the first several bars when playing for the Nazi commander Wilm Hosenfeld (Thomas Kretschmann) as well as the opening bars of Grande Polanise Brilliante, Op 22 during the closing credits.
In his book, Szpilman says that, when he was finally able to drag the boy out of the drain, he was already dead because he'd been beaten so badly that his spine was completely crushed. The boy was smuggling goods under the wall, like the other boy Szpilman saw moments earlier that ran away -- they were small enough to fit through the drains that had been built into the bases of the walls, so smuggling things like food and other supplies was easy for them. Unfortunately, the boy found by Szpilman was caught by a German man on the other side of the wall, likely a German soldier or SS officer, and was being beaten when he was found.
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