Movie poster of The Pianist

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The Pianist

The Pianist is a 2002 movie directed by Roman Polanski starring Adrien Brody. The film was adapted from the memoir of Jewish-Polish musician Władysław Szpilman. more...

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Tagline: Music was his passion. Survival was his masterpiece.

Cast & crew

  • Adrien Brody - Wladyslaw Szpilman
  • Thomas Kretschmann - Captain Wilm Hosenfeld
  • Frank Finlay - Father
  • Maureen Lipman - Mother
  • Emilia Fox - Dorota
  • Ed Stoppard - Henryk
  • Julia Rayner - Regina
  • Jessica Kate Meyer - Halina
  • Michal Zebrowski - Jurek

Plot summary

Władysław Szpilman, a Polish Jewish musician working for the Warsaw radio, sees his whole world collapse with the outbreak of World War II and the invasion of Poland. The year is 1939 and the nightmare was just beginning. After the radio station at which he was working is rocked by explosions, Władysław goes home to learn on the radio that Great Britain has declared war on Germany. Believing that the war will end quickly, he and his family rejoice at this news and wonder when all of this would be over.

Months go by and living conditions for the Jewish people gradually deteriorate as their rights are slowly eroded: they now have limited amount of money permitted per family, armbands to identify themselves, and eventually, they are all forced into the Warsaw Ghetto. There, they face hunger, humiliation from the Nazis and the ever present fear of death or torture. Before long, they were rounded up to be deported to concentration camps. At the last moment, Wladyslaw is saved from this gruesome fate by a friend. Now, separated from his family and loved ones, he survives, at first in the Ghetto and later outside, relying on the help of non-Jews who still remember him.

When living in hiding, he witnesses many horrors committed by the Nazis such as widespread killing, beating, burning etc. In one memorable scene he witnesses a mounted resistance by the Jew from the Ghetto. In the end the Germans manage to break the wall of the Ghetto and capture all the fighters; they were all executed on the scene.

A few years go by and Warsaw is in total ruins. The ever growing Polish resistance puts high pressure on the German army causing it to kill many innocent people. On more than one occasion, Wladyslaw has come near to death. Now, miserable and weak, he is more likely to starve to death than to die by the weapons of the Nazis.

Searching the ruins of the city, Wladyslaw tries to find something to eat. After a frantic search, he finds a can of pickled cucumbers. Unfortunately, he doesn't have a can-opener with which to open it. After another search, he finds some tools, a shovel and a metal pike by the fireplace, and begins to open the can. Just as he started, he finds that he is watched by a German officer. Frozen in fear, he drops the can. The German officer is Captain Hosenfeld. He asks what he is doing. He knows that he is a Jew. Wladyslaw answers that he is trying to find something to eat. He also says that he is a pianist and so he is asked to play a piece by the officer. After finishing the piece (Chopin's Ballade in G minor), he hides in the attic of the building. Hosenfeld regularly brings him food so he can survive. Wladyslaw cannot believe his luck.

Another few weeks go by, and the Germans are forced to withdraw from Warsaw due to the advancing Soviet troops. The concentration camp is liberated and Captain Hosenfeld and other Germans were captured before they can flee. Hosenfeld begs a Jewish musician to contact Szpilman to free him. But when Szpilman arrives at the site, all the prisoners have been removed.


  • "Szpilman", when pronounced in German, sounds like "Spielmann", a German word meaning bandsman or player. Hence Hosenfeld's remark that it is a good name for a pianist.
  • The piano piece heard at the beginning and end of the film is Chopin's Nocturne in C-sharp minor.
  • The piano piece played when Szpilman was confronted by Hosenfeld is Chopin's Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Opus 23. Also, the version played in the movie was shortened. The entire piece lasts approximately 9 mins.


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