Main cast: Adrien Brody (Wladyslaw Szpilman), Thomas Kretschmann (Captain Wilm Hosenfeld), Emilia Fox (Dorota), Michal Zebrowski (Jurek), Ed Stoppard (Henryk), Maureen Lipman (Edwarda Szpilman), Frank Finlay (Samuel Szpilman), Jessica Kate Meyer (Halina Szpilman), and Julia Rayner (Regina Szpilman)
Director: Roman Polanski
I’m going to get a lot of heat for saying this, but there’s something really pathetic about a movie that takes a wartime story and turns it into an All about Me, Me, Me, Me moment. The Piano, based on a true story, sees the Jewish Polish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman and his family getting swept into the horrors of World War 2. When the movie is not showing scenes that depict the truly horrific inhuman treatment the Jews received at the hands of the Nazi, it is showing Adrien Brody’s character wandering around in a narcissistic haze of self-absorbed whining.
Mr Brody seems to be an adept student of the Roberto Benigni School of Repulsive Sullen Mentally Handicapped Child Impersonation Method Acting. His family is herded off to concentration camps and he spends his time staring lovelorn at his almost-girlfriend or just standing there, reacting to circumstances. If he survives this war, it’s because of the unexpected kindness of a German soldier or because he just happens to stumble into a lucky escape at the right time. He doesn’t do anything other to try to look as pathetic as possible, his hair always artfully groomed so that he will still be gorgeous even as he begs me to pity him.
I don’t know. I find myself more sympathetic with his family who are dragged to the camps while our hero bumbles his way around. I am more interested in the kind German officer. I am interested in the history, but by the late third of the movie, it’s all about Wladyslaw. All he wants is to play the piano, aww. In the end, he gets to play his piano again, awww.
The arty folks may be more sympathetic to the triumph of the artistic freedom over wartime strife theme of this movie, but I prefer a story that isn’t all about introspection and self-absorbed nihilism. It’s war, people are dying, and in the end, the last thing I care about is a hero who seems to care more about his artistic abilities than the war going on around him. There are many interesting things in this movie, but the central character is the least interesting of them all.
In the end, this movie actually makes the bloated melodrama Schindler’s List look like a masterpiece of the century in comparison. That’s an amazing feat, and alas, the only amazing feat it can genuinely claim to have done where I’m concerned.