Mathilda, a 12-year-old girl, is reluctantly taken in by Léon, a professional assassin, after her family is murdered. Léon and Mathilda form an unusual relationship, as she becomes his protégée and learns the assassin's trade.
A brilliant pianist, a Polish Jew, witnesses the restrictions Nazis place on Jews in the Polish capital, from restricted access to the building of the Warsaw ghetto. As his family is rounded up to be shipped off to the Nazi labor camps, he escapes deportation and eludes capture by living in the ruins of Warsaw. Written by
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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