Roman Polanski

Sog.: dal romanzo Das Wunderbare Ueberleben (1998) di Władysław Szpilman. Scen.: Ronald Harwood. F.: Pawel Edelman. M.: Hervé de Luze. Scgf.: Allan Starski. Mus.: Wojciech Kilar. Int.: Adrien Brody (Władysław Szpilman), Thomas Kretschmann (capitano Hosenfeld), Frank Finlay (il padre), Maureen Lipman (la madre), Ed Stoppard (Henryk), Julia Rayner (Regina), Jessica Kate Meyer (Halina), Emilia Fox (Dorota). Prod.: Robert Benmussa, Roman Polanski, Alain Sarde per RP Productions, Héritage Films, Studios de Babelsberg, Runteam, StudioCanal DCP. Col.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Basing his film on a memoir by Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Jewish pianist essentially known only in Poland (and then largely for his legacy as a composer of popular songs), Polanski declared himself at last able to filter his own childhood memories of the war through a personal story of survival in the ghetto… Polanski was six when war broke out, and escaped bombing in Warsaw with his father to be reunited with his mother in the Cracow ghetto. Like Szpilman, the young Polanski was saved by non-Jewish patrons of variable loyalty, he lost his mother (though not his father) to the camps, and then after the war he left his experiences behind him. Many images from his own life are echoed in Szpilman’s account: watching the wall of the ghetto being built from an upstairs window; the sudden shootings; the round-up of deportees in a square; and the physical impact of a bomb blast. All of these are faithfully evoked in The Pianist, along with Polanski’s personal memory of evading mass deportation, when Szpilman is casually advised “Walk, don’t run”.
The absolute conviction of its detail  is what gives  Polanski’s  vision  of  life in the ghetto its almost hallucinatory quality. This is, in part, due to the triumphant production design (some of it on the original locations in Warsaw), but it also stems from a palpable sense  of precise recollection from both parties… Szpilman’s ‘scientific’ descriptions of events… find their perfect cinematic counterpoint in Polanski’s unerringly direct placement of his camera. And just as that camera always stayed very close to Jack Nicholson’s private eye in Chinatown, making the film a compelling subjective experience, Szpilman himself is virtually always the point of reference throughout the film. Like Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion or Polanski himself in The Tenant, Szpilman becomes a lonely, desperate victim of alien, peeling apartments, disturbing voices beyond the walls, and menacing neighbours.

David Thompson

Copy From

Restored in 4K in 2022/2023 by courtesy of StudioCanal in collaboration with DI Factory at DI Factory & reKino laboratory, from the original camera negative. Funding provided by StudioCanal & the Polish Film Institute