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The Pianist More at IMDbPro »

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366 out of 419 people found the following review useful:

A haunting film, one that you won't forget

Author: Dan Grant ( from Toronto, Ontario
27 March 2003

I can remember when this film came out I was adamantly against seeing it. I had my preconceived notions that it would be some other heroic Jewish Holocaust film where good triumphs over evil and in between we would see some brutal atrocities committed by the Germans to add some flavour.

How wrong I was.

This is one of the best films I have ever seen and what it did to me I cannot describe in words. But in a nutshell, it moved me, made me cry, made me feel like I was in the Polish ghetto in 1940, and ultimately made me kiss the sidewalks as I walked out of the theater and thanked God that I live in the free society that I do.

Roman Polanski has proved that he is a great director with films like Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby but this is his crowning achievement. I think the fact that this won the awards that it did at this years Oscars goes a long way to validate the brilliance of this film. I believe that the Oscar's are rigged for the most part and films and actresses and such win based more on their pedigree or business associations than anything else, so when it won best actor and director and adapted screenplay this year, it tells you that it should have won best picture but the Weinsteins seem to have a spell over everyone, hence a charlatan like Chicago takes top prize. Sorry for the digression here but when you compare a "film" like Chicago to a masterpiece like The Pianist, there really is one clear cut winner. They handed out the statue to the wrong movie.

The Pianist follows up and coming piano player Wlad Spielzman from his days as a local hero to a prisoner of war to his time in the ghettos, surviving only by the kindness of strangers. I think many people have touched on this before but what makes this film so amazing and well crafted is because Spielzman is a man that we can all relate to. He is not a hero, he is not a rebel and he is not a kamikaze type that wants and lusts after revenge. He is a simple man that is doing everything in his power to stay alive. He is a desperate man and fears for his life and wants to stay as low as he can. Only from the succor he receives from others does he manage to live and breathe and eat and hide. And this is how I related to him. If put in his position, how would I react? Exactly the way he did. This is a man that had everything taken from him. His livelihood, his family, his freedom and almost his life. There is no time for heroics here. Adrien Brody embodies the spirit of Spielzman and his win at this years Oscars was one of the happiest moments I have had watching the festivities. His speech was even better but that is a topic for another time.

Ultimately it is his gift of music that perhaps saves his life and the final scene that he has with the German soldier is one of the most emotionally galvanizing scenes I've witnessed. With very little dialogue, it is in the eyes, the face, the mouth and the sounds that chime throughout their tiny space that tell you all you need to know. I think it is this scene that won Brody his Oscar. This is one of the all time great performances.

I think Polanski spoke from the heart here. He has taken a palette of memories and amalgamated them with what he has read and given us one of the best films of our generation and any other. I think The Pianist will go down as one of the best films of this century and when all is said and done, Chicago will be forgotten the way Ordinary People was forgotten and when people talk about the film The Pianist, they will do so with reverence and respect. This is a cinematic masterpiece.

10 out of 10

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280 out of 343 people found the following review useful:

10 out of 10

Author: Alexandra Jones from Luxembourg
20 January 2003

The Pianist is an account of the true life experience of a Polish pianist during WW2, in the context of the deportation of the Jewish community to the Ghetto of Warsaw, a setting virtually absent from all films inspired on WW2.

Polanski (himself a child survivor of the Krakow and Warsaw ghettos) could have described in more detail the legendary, desperate fighting of the Jewish resistance in the ghetto of Warsaw, or the horrific mass extermination in concentration camps. Instead, the film gains in intensity by displaying the war from the pianist's own point of view (through windows, half-opened doors, holes in the walls - with big emphasis on the use of "point of view shooting" by the cameraman). One cannot help feeling disturbed by the most enthralling scenes of the film, as the isolated pianist tries to ensure his survival in the ghetto and ruins of Warsaw, hiding and fleeing, moving from one bombed house to the next, gradually becoming a shadow of his former self, hungry and afraid (merit largely attributed to the extraordinary performance by Adrien Brody, who visibly loses half of his weight throughout the film).

Does the pianist raise any sympathy from the audience? Not immediately, in my view. The pianist is more than often a drifting character, almost a witness of other people's and his own horrors. He seems to float and drift along the film like a lost feather, with people quickly appearing and disappearing from his life, some helping generously, others taking advantage of his quiet despair, always maintaining an almost blank, dispassionate demeanour. One may even wonder why we should care in the least about this character. But we do care. That is, I believe, the secret to this film's poetry.

In one of the strongest scenes, towards the end, a German officer forces the pianist to play for his life, in an episode that suddenly brings a much lighter, beautifully poetic shade to the film (this German officer will be probably compared to Schindler, although his philanthropy does not quite share the same basis).

This is also a wonderful tribute to Polish artists, through Chopin's music, with the concert at the very end of the film and the opening performance by the pianist at the local radio station (with the sound of bomb explosions in the background) forming an harmonious link between the beginning and end of the film (following Polanski's usual story-frame).

Overall, The Pianist is one of the most detailed and shocking accounts of the treatment of the Jews by the Nazis, with the atmosphere in Warsaw well captured and believable. Quite possibly, The Pianist will remain in the history of film-making as the most touching and realistic portraits of the holocaust ever made.

Polanski's film deserves a strong presence in the 2003 Oscar nominations, including a nomination for Adrien Brody's amazing performance, Polanski's sublime direction, best adapted screenplay and, obviously, best picture. This could be, at last, Polanski's long awaited, triumphal comeback to the high and mighty Hollywood.

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242 out of 279 people found the following review useful:

Excellent, depressing, but excellent

Author: Kristine ( from Chicago, Illinois
1 November 2004

Man, I can not get this film out of my head. It is so rare that a movie can affect me the way "The Pianst" did. The last movie that did that was "Casino". I was really tired when I was watching the movie. It was almost midnight, so I was thinking that I'll start watching and I'll finish it in the morning. Did I? No, indeed I did not stop watching. I couldn't stop it. I just wanted to see what would happen next. I cried during "Schindler's List", I sobbed in this film. Everything that happens in this film is so sad. Adrien Brody does a remarkable job of acting in this film. I would very highly recommend this film. Especially if you are a history buff. Please, I think this film should be in the top 10 best films of all time.

I looked on the message boards you know and some other user comments that didn't enjoy this film much, they criticized Adrien Brody's performance and say that he was boring and only showed emotions that are easy to act. Please, you have got to be kidding me. This man portrayed the total feeling of hopelessness, being alone, being hated. I one time had an audition in high school like this to see if I could improvise, and the way I imagined this feeling is like in dodgeball where you have no one else on your team and you're the only one left standing, yet on the other team there is 20 big men that are just waiting to wack that ball at you. Adrien couldn't have done a better job, I was so frightened for him and cried for him during the whole film while he was one the run.

Roman Polanski as the director, he himself escaped the terrors of being a prisoner in The Holocaust, yet he lost his mother and other family members. Yes, I'm sure this film must have been hard to re create for him, but he was probably the only director that could have done this movie as brilliantly as he did. He created this story and made it so effective, I called up my mom and told her that I loved her so much because we take so many things for granted. True, this isn't the 1930's or 40's, and we are in America. But it's still frightening to think that human beings are capable of that much hate and being so brutal to another human.

World War II is one of the most frightening wars in history, if you read more about The Holocaust, you get more into it and you should. If you are not interested, then watch this film. It's a must see, otherwise how else will we learn from our mistakes? The Pianist is a beautiful and extremely dark tale about a man and the struggle to survive. The ending is so powerful and moving to know that sometimes one man can make a difference in a crowd of so many and I'm not talking about Adrien Brody's character. You'll see what I mean.


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234 out of 281 people found the following review useful:

An astonishing film

Author: FilmOtaku ( from Milwaukee, WI
28 April 2003

The Pianist is the true story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, at the time Poland's most acclaimed pianist whose life is transformed during the Nazi occupation of Warsaw beginning in 1939. The film spans several years and maps his many personal trials in addition to providing the perspectives of his family, rebel factions and sympathizers.

Brilliantly directed by Roman Polanski and starring an amazing Adrien Brody, The Pianist is bound to garner comparisons to Schindler's List, for obvious reasons. However similar the subject matter, the approach is different. While Schindler's List was filmed in a beautiful, crisp black and white that offered many incredible images, The Pianist was filmed with almost muted color. Schindler's List featured what has been argued as a complicated hero. Oskar Schindler did save many Jews, but not without battling his own materialistic demons first. The Pianist's Szpilman is a sympathetic character throughout. His plight was desperate, and the demons he fought were over his own guilt in surviving a fight that eventually turns into a primal will to live.

Polanski does not spare the viewer any grief with his film. The horrific scenes between the Nazis and the Warsaw Jews were more terrifying and horrible than any horror/suspense movie I have seen in some time, possibly ever. The humiliation and complete loss is wrenching. In several scenes, Jews are lined up in the middle of the night and subjected to either torture or death. In one case, a woman asks of a Nazi officer, "What will happen to us?" and is promptly shot point blank in the head. The camera does not flinch or subdue any of these atrocities.

A mention must be made of Brody's performance. Having only previously seen Brody in two other films, Spike Lee's "Summer of Sam" and Terrence Malick's "The Thin Red Line" (a part that was supposed to be his launch into stardom before his part was unfortunately cut drastically) I knew his potential was great. After his Oscar win, I viewed this movie with more criticism than I normally would have and he certainly did not disappoint. He transcended my expectations. His physical transformation was amazing, but more importantly, he conveyed the sorrow of this man shockingly well - in both verbal and non-verbal contexts. It will be very interesting to see what kind of opportunities this role will afford him, and the kinds of roles he will accept.

Something worth mentioning is the affect this movie had on the audience with whom I viewed this film. Normally, when a film ends, the regular hardcore filmsters like myself will stay and watch the credits in their entirety. The rest of the audience stands up and leaves, usually to the chagrin of the remaining enthusiasts. This was one of the few times I have seen a film at a theater where not one person stood to leave during the final credits. It wasn't until the house lights came up at the end did people begin to disperse. Personally, I hightailed it out of the theater the second the lights came on because not only was my face a mess from crying during the film (Tammy Faye comes to mind) but I had this overwhelming need for an emotional release, so when I reached my car I sat and wept for about five minutes. It has been years since I have watched a film that upset me to that extent. Conversely, while discussing this film with my brother, (someone who loves movies as much and has similar tastes as I do) he mentioned that while he thought the movie was excellent, he wasn't as profoundly emotionally effected as I was. After thinking about this for a couple of days, I realized the difference: The music. As a classical music enthusiast and erstwhile musician, the thought of not being able to enjoy, much less play the music you love is a tragic one. Then the emotional outpouring that comes when you return to it - there aren't words to describe how intense that is. Not having the same appreciation for this musical genre, one will be able to sympathize with the physical and emotional tribulations, but perhaps not in the musical sense.

The Pianist was truly an astonishing film. I was riveted from start to finish and so emotionally affected that I couldn't even consider writing a review until a week later. Having said that, I am filing this away with my list of movies which include Schindlers List and Philadelphia, as films that I love but cannot rewatch for a long time after due to their intensely emotional content.


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206 out of 299 people found the following review useful:

the best holocaust movie ever made

Author: 9902439Claessens from Holland, limburg
1 October 2002

last weekend, I saw Roman Polanski's The Pianist and what a movie. The grizzly reality feeling of the movie shell-shocked me in the first place but later on I recognized the pure feeling of the film: The horror what war does with innocent people truly is. the main story isn't about a war hero, but about people who don't want to die in this madness. Every aspect of the film is really done for an reason and in his place and you don't feel this as entertainment.

the music is what hit me the most. the classical tunes had such an enormous impact on me and portrayed the feelings of the main role of the pianist. The fact that there are no hero's in a war movie is for me more than a welcome benefit. No war in the world should have hero's who can't die. Everybody in this movie can die, every second of it. The scary moments are real scary.

bottom line: ten times as realistic as the also brilliant Schindler's list. and twenty times better than Saving private Ryan for the lack of hero's and there is no patriotism at all.

ten out of ten, best movie of 2002

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149 out of 202 people found the following review useful:

terrific movie, if relentlessly gritty and realistic

Author: baba44713 from Croatia
7 April 2005

I remember seeing "Schindler's list" about ten years ago, and I remember how weird I felt for being almost completely unmoved by it. Although it showed the horrors of holocaust quite realistically, somehow it all seemed just a bit too fake and exaggerated. Characters were a bit off (I still can't decide who was more over the top, Schindler or Goeth), fake sentimentalism was all over the place, . While it was a work of art and an important reminder of true events that shouldn't be forgotten, on emotional level it just somehow failed to deliver.

Enter "The Pianist". With no Spielberg around to put his trademark sappy material, we finally have a movie that shows the true horror and tragedy of Jewish people in World War II. The story is told through the eyes of one man - Wladislaw Szpielman, Jewish pianist who works in a radio station in Warsaw during the German occupation of Poland. Together with him we watch his world getting torn apart, witness his family being taken away, his existence being reduced to bare essentials. Brody gives a subtle yet spectacular performance, his best work yet. And never once are we reminded that we are watching a movie. Everything is shown from Szpielman's point of view, and it is all very gritty and realistic. While Spielberg's rendition of German atrocities always had a slightly staged feel to augment their dramatic purpose, here they are so true to life there impact is much greater - you watch and are being reminded in horror that this things actually happened.

While being very hard to watch sometimes, this is a movie that "Schindler's List" was supposed to be. This movie doesn't judge anybody, or tries to explain anything - it shows historical events as a reflection of one man's fate, making a powerful testimony that stays with you long after the beautiful last shot and the end credits are over.

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116 out of 150 people found the following review useful:

To hell and back.

Author: jotix100 from New York
21 January 2003

The Pianist is an incredible film in many aspects. Roman Polanski's account of the survival of the pianist, Wladyslaw Szpilman, is a document about how one man can overcome the worst possible situations in a world gone completely mad around him.

The only fault one can find with the adaptation of Mr. Szpilman's story by playwright Ronald Harwood, is the fact that we never get to know the real Wladyslaw Szpilman, the man, as some of the comments made to this forum also have indicated.

There is a very interesting point raised by the the pianist's father who upon reading something in the paper, comments about how the Americans have forgotten them. Well, not only the Americans, but the rest of the world would not raise a finger to do anything for the people that were being imprisoned and made to live in the confined area of Warsaw. The exterminating camps will come later.

What is amazing in the film, is the frankness in which director Polanski portrays the duplicity of some Jews in the ghetto. The fact that Jews were used to control other Jews is mind boggling, but it was a fact, and it's treated here matter of factly. Had this been made by an American director, this aspect would have never surfaced at all. Yet, Mr. Polanski and Mr. Harewood show us that all was not as noble and dignified as some other films have treated this ugly side of war.

Wladyslaw Szpilman, as played by Adrien Brody, is puzzling sometimes, in that we never get to know what's in his mind. He's a man intent in not dying, but he's not a fighter. He accepts the kindness extended to him. He never offers to do anything other than keep on hiding, which is a human instinct. He will never fight side by side with the real heroes of the ghetto uprising. His role is simply to witness the battle from his vantage point in one of the safe houses across the street from where the action takes place.

Adrien Brody is an interesting actor to watch. As the pianist of the story he exudes intelligence. There is a scene where Szpilman, in one of the safe houses he is taken, discovers an upright piano. One can see the music in his head and he can't contain himself in moving his fingers outside the closed instrument playing the glorious music from which he can only imagine what it will sound in his mind.

The supporting cast is excellent. Frank Findlay, a magnificent English actor is the father of the pianist and Maureen Lipman, another veteran of the stage, plays the mother with refined dignity.

In watching this film one can only shudder at the thought of another conflict that is currently brewing in front of our eyes. We wonder if the leaders of the different factions could be made to sit through a showing of The Pianist to make them realize that war is hell.

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110 out of 140 people found the following review useful:

Adrien Brody's Minimalist Acting Packs Maximum Emotional Punch

Author: Dorian Tenore-Bartilucci (dtb) from Whitehall, PA
9 January 2004

This wrenching yet ultimately uplifting fact-based drama won Adrien Brody his Academy Award and finally made him a star (along with his gracious yet heartfelt Oscar speech and That Kiss :-) -- rightly so, since title character Wladyslaw Szpilman is a challenging role in so many ways! It's not easy to command the screen when your character often has to be passive, deliberately trying not to draw attention to himself to keep from falling into Nazi hands in war-torn Poland, but Brody pulls it off. It helps that Brody is absolutely stellar at acting with his eyes, plus his body language speaks volumes; these fill in the emotional cracks, especially in scenes where Szpilman, alone and in hiding, can't speak or even move around much for fear of giving himself away. (Brody is the youngest actor to date to win the Best Actor Oscar, BTW, having gotten his little gold man only a month before his 30th birthday.) While there's no lack of haunting scenes, thanks to the deservedly Oscar-winning work of director Roman Polanski and screenwriter Ronald Harwood, the one that always gets me is the one where Szpilman discovers the apartment serving as his latest `safe house' has a piano. We see Szpilman sit at the piano; we see him in a head-and-shoulders shot, shoulders moving; we hear piano music and gasp as we fear his love and longing for music is about to give him away -- and then we see his hands moving in the air just above the keyboard and realize, with both relief and a pang of regret, that the music is only in Szpilman's head. Terrific as the other 2002 Best Actor nominees were, now that I've seen THE PIANIST (as well as the fascinating making-of documentary on the DVD's flip side, showing what a physically and emotionally grueling experience Brody's job often was), I'd be really p***ed off if anybody but Adrien Brody had won! (Besides, the rest of the 2002 Best Actor nominees already won Oscars -- this time it was dark horse Brody's turn! :-)

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110 out of 141 people found the following review useful:

Brilliantly Narrated, Visually Stunning!

Author: Rob Chester from New York, USA
1 February 2003

Polanski has depicted the gory details of the holocaust without much restraint. But, the most wonderful aspect of the film is that the director has not lost focus of his story and instead of focusing too much on the holocaust horror he has weaved the true-life narrative of survival around devillish happenings.

Every single act of escapade Szpilman goes through is depicted like a drop of water on a barren desert. However, the Oasis in the driest desert comes in the end and it is here that Polanski captures the essence of human emotion. I had this very strong urge of jumping into the theater screen and magically adopting a character in the movie and doing something about the helplesness portrayed so convincingly.

Overall, Polanski has given a stunning visual narrative of the cold war. Survival indeed is a privilege though it is taken for granted today. Performances by Brody, Kretschmann deserve applause.

Pawel Edelman's camera work is moving and he has brilliantly captured the dark sadness in the visual canvas in an effective way. The lighting is amazing. Pre-dawn shooting schedule could have helped a great deal.

Hervé de Luze's editing work has ensured that the narrative does not slip away from focus. Most notable is the scene where the human bodies are lit on fire and the camera raises to show the smoke. The darkness of the smoke is enhanced and is used effectively to fade the scene out.

The scene where Brody's fingers move as he rests his hands on the bars of the tram handle only goes to show the brilliance of Polanski as a film-maker.

Great film that will be in the running for this year's Oscars. I will give it a 9 Out of 10.

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106 out of 141 people found the following review useful:

Stoic, haunting tale of survival

Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
16 January 2003

The Pianist tells the story of such a man in war time Poland, played by Adrien Brody, who from start to finish sees his life literally getting worse and worse and worse- starts off with new rules from the Nazis, then the stars on the arms, followed by the Warsaw ghetto, and while there he could play in the restaurant, that too soon ended, as the trains arrived and took his family and anyone else he knew away. During this he narrowly escapes, and from then on the film in a sense almost becomes not exactly a holocaust film, but more like a cross of that as the element and the basic structure of something a-la in Cast Away: this includes stretches of scenes showing Brody simply trying to keep out of view of the Germans, either in a small apartment provided by helpful Polish Christians/Jewish resistance, or as a scavenger in the abandoned sections of the ghetto, all while feeling the old rhythm of the piano in his head and fingertips.

This is the kind of magnificent filmmaking that shows a director not only being as true to the story given to him (that of Painist Szpilman, based on his autobiography) but to his past as well- Roman Polanksi faced similar conditions as a boy in the early 40's, and has found the best line to show, never crossed or mis-stepped, in representing the characters and the period. There aren't any hints of tightened suspense, no clues as to where the film could veer to, it just is. The big difference to be seen between a film like this and Schindler's List is not just in the people and situations (Schindler's List was a film about two people, Schindler and Goeth, in the foreground while the Pianist is a total first person tale), yet also in the filmmaking qualities being here surely European. And while the accents on the Polish-Jewish actors sounds a bit too British, that is quite forgivable considering the scope of the project (thank heavens he didn't put in English speaking Germans).

In conclusion, Brody turns in a superb performance, and this indeed is in with Polanski's best, a deserved of 2002's Palme D'Or. Great music too. A+

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