The Pianist

We’re here, guys! We’ve finally reached The Pianist!

Cast: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Emilia Fox, Frank Finlay, Maureen Lipman, Ed Stoppard, Jessica Kate Myer, Julia Rayner, Daniel Caltagirone, Andrzej Blumenfeld, Valentine Pelka, Ruth Platt, Ronan Vibert, Andrew Tiernan…

Written by: Wladyslaw Szpilman (memoir), Ronald Harwood (adapted screenplay)

Directed by: Roman Polanski

Genre: Drama, History, Biography

Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Release: May 24, 2002 (Cannes Film Festival); December 4, 2002 (U.S.)

MPAA Rating: R



Adrien’s Role: Władysław Szpilman

Adrien portrays Wladyslaw “Wladek” Szpilman, a well-known pianist and composer from Poland. Szpilman miraculously survived the horrors of Warsaw during World War II — a tale he later recounted in his book, upon which this film is based.

Adrien’s dedication to this role is something of legend at this point. As is his Oscar-winning performance.

There are times he is the only person on screen, yet the audience remains captivated as the story is told through his heart-wrenching presence (and amazingly expressive face).

What I Liked

Just short of everything, honestly. There are parts that are hard to watch, of course, as the horrors of the Holocaust are presented unflinchingly. But they are necessary. The audience has to see what was happening to feel how high the stakes were — how unlikely Szpilman’s survival really was. In fact, were it not a true story, it would seem far-fetched.

It is a remarkable film that I’ve been able to re-watch many times, even given the subject matter. To give a contrast: I’ve seen Schindler’s List once. I’ve seen The Pianist probably 20 times. I think the difference is in the storytelling. The focus is on one man. It’s just as horrific to witness what happens to him and around him, but it’s somehow more digestible on a smaller scale. I’m sure Adrien Brody himself is also a reason I can watch this one fairly often. He is nothing short of perfection in this film.

Nit Picks

My main complaint with this film is the casting of the character of Majorek (part of the Warsaw uprising). Daniel Caltagirone does a fine job in the role, so it’s not that. The issue is his resemblance to the real Wladyslaw Szpilman is a bit distracting.

Szpilman and Caltagirone
A young Wladyslaw Szpilman (left), Daniel Caltagirone (right)

As you can see, he bares a stronger resemblance to Szpilman than Brody does. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad Adrien got the part, because it changed his life. However, putting Caltagirone in the film was kind of a head-scratcher (though, he was great).


Another “complaint” is the addition of the character Dorota, a love interest of sorts for Szpilman. She didn’t exist. In a film based on facts, it seems silly to work a fictional woman into his life. I know why it was done — to provide a light-hearted and hopeful feeling early on, and to add to the sense of loss as the story continued. I liked the character, so it seems silly to list it as a dislike. However, fictional romances added to otherwise true stories are actually a pet peeve of mine.

In Closing

The performances are stellar, the story is remarkable, the cinematography and score are beautiful… it all comes together and it’s simply magical.


Movie Overall: 9.5/10
Brody Performance: 10/10


Author: Patricia Henderson

A 40-something from Northern California. I love movies. I love writing. So, here we are.

One thought on “The Pianist”

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