I watched The Pianist yesterday. I finally understand why Polanski was so widely lauded for his film. The Pianist is haunting in its barefaced and undisguised telling of a survivor's story. The main character is not a hero. Jewish Wladyslaw Szpilman did not join the arms of his fellow Jews in the tragically valiant uprising against the Germans. He lucked out. He escaped, he hid, he ran, and most of all, he survived. The Pianist is therefore not romanticized; in fact, it is almost dispassionate. It is a story of one man's incredible ability to survive. It does not try to justify, and the portrayal of the discrimination and treatment of Jews is not overtly shocking or overly gruesome, and perhaps made more powerful in its subtlety. For example, there is no scene which shows the deaths caused by the gas chambers. Like in Amen where Gerstein's expressions are used to convey the horror of the gassings, in The Pianist, conversation is used.
Another moment in the film is when the German officer walks down the rows of Jews shooting them in their heads. When he comes to the last shivering and trembling old man, the gun runs out of bullets. That precise moment where he clicks the gun and it is empty is tremendous. Zoom in on the Jewish man's face. White in terror, but also, perhaps, a hint of hope? Then slowly, without increasing the pace of the music or movement, the German reloads his gun, and then shoots him. Its a brilliant cinematic feat. Awful, horrible, and so, so tragic it makes you so mixed up.
I'm supposed to be de-numbing myself from the effects of History Exams. I wrote this during the period of intensive studying.
"The fact that I can say 20-50 million people died during the Great Leap Forward without blinking an eye.