France, Poland, Germany, UK

Synopsis

Wladyslaw Szpilman, a brilliant Polish pianist, a New, escapes deportation.
Forced to live in the heart of the Warsaw ghetto, he shares the suffering, the humiliation and the struggles. He manages to escape and hides in the ruins of the capital. A German officer comes to his aid and helps him to survive.

Director's Statement

I always knew that one day I would make a film about this painful chapter in Polish history, but I didn't want it to be autobiographical.
After reading the first chapter of Wladyslaw Szpilman's memoirs, I instantly knew that THE PIANIST would be the subject of my next film. It was the story I was seeking: in spite of the horror, the account has a positive side and is full of hope.
I survived the Krakow ghetto and the bombing of Warsaw and I wanted to recreate my memories from childhood. It was also Important for me to remain as close to reality as possible, and not make a film that was typically Hollywood. And if my memories weren't enough, I could always count on the authenticity of Szpilman's account written just after the war - perhaps that's why the story is so strong and genuine. He describes the reality of this period with surprising objectivity which is almost cool and scientific. In his book, there are bad Poles and good Poles, just like there were bad and good Jews, bad and good Germans... Before we began the shoot, we naturally consulted historians and Holocaust survivors. I also showed the crew several documentaries on the Warsaw ghetto.
As for the actor who was to play Szpllman, I was never looking for a physical resemblance. I wanted an actor who could slip into the skin of the character as I had imagined him when I worked on the script. It was important to find someone who was somewhat known. As the film was shot in English, we needed someone who spoke the language fluently. We organized a casting call In London. To our surprise 1,400 candidates auditioned, even Chinese and Black women... After the audition, we realized it would be difficult to find someone without any experience. I didn't find anyone in England, so I extended my search to America. When I saw a few of Adrien Brady's films, I didn't hesitate for a moment: he was THE PIANIST.

Director's Biography

Born in Paris to Polish parents, Roman Polanski and his mother and father moved back to their homeland just 2 years before WWII broke out. He survived the war and studied at the Krakow Art School and the Lodz Film School. He began his acting career at 14 and participated in the very popular radio show "The Merry Gang". As an adolescent, he played in the film THREE STORIES and acted in many different small parts in several Polish films one of which was Andrzej Wajda's A GENERATION. He was still a student when he completed his first short films "Two Men and a Wardrobe", (1958), "When Angels Fall (1959), "The Fat and the Lean (1961) and "Mammals" (1962) which all won awards at various festivals.
His feature KNIFE IN THE WATER (1962) earned him the Critics' Prize in Venice along with an Oscar nomination for best foreign film. REPULSION (1965) was his first film produced in England and it starred Catherine Deneuve. The film won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. His next film CUL-DE-SAC (1 966) earned him a Golden Bear. Roman Polanski then directed and acted in THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1 967). Soon alter, he went to the States to make ROSEMARY'S BABY (1 968) for which he was nominated for an Oscar for best screenplay. In 1972, he returned to Europe to direct his adaptation of MACBETH which was co-written by Kenneth Tynan. The same year he produced "Weekend of a Champion" by Frank Simon, a documentary on the automobilist Jacky Stewart. The following year, he directed Marcello Mastroianni in WHAT?.
1974 marked his return to Hollywood. He directed CHINATOWN which won the Golden Globe and was nominated for 11 Oscars, including best film and best director. The film only snagged the award for best original script. In 1976, Roman Polanski made THE TENANT in Europe with Isabelle Adjani and Shelly Winters. He also had a part in the film as well. Three years later came TESS. The art-house film was nominated for 6 Oscars including best director and won for best photography, best artistic direction and best
costumes. Roman Polanski also won two C6sars (French Oscars) for the film for best direction and best film. In 1984, he wrote his autobiography, ''Roman by Polanski" which hit the best-seller list in several countries. In 1986, he mode PIRATES, a comedy adventure with Walter Matthau. His next film was FRANTIC (1987), a thriller with Harrison Ford. This was the first starring role for Emmanuelle Seigner who later played in BITTER MOON opposite Hugh Grant and Peter Coyote followed by THE NINTH GATE with Johnny Depp and Lena Olin. In 1994, he directed DEATH AND THE MAIDEN with Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley. The film was an adaptation from a play by Ariel Dorfman.
In terms of theatre, Roman Polanski directed Alan Berg's opera "Lulu" at the Spoleto Festival, Verdi's "Rigoletto" at the Munich Opera and Offenbach's "The Tales of Hoffman" at the Bastille Opera. In 1981, he directed and acted in Peter Shaffer's "Amadeus" first in Warsaw and then in Paris. 1988 saw him playing the main role in Stephan Berkoff s adaptation of Kafka's "The Metamorphosis". He also staged and directed the musical "Tanz der Vampire" in 1996 in Vienna with Jim Steinman's music and Michael Kunze's words based on "The Fearless Vampire Killers". Since then he has directed Terrence McNally's "Master Class" in Paris.
He has often acted in other directors' films. He shared the spotlight with G6rard Depardieu in Giuseppe Tornatore's film A PURE FORMALITY and played himself in Michel Blanc's DEAD TIRED. He has just completed Andrzej Wajda's film ZEMSTA.
In 1999, he was elected to the Academy of Beaux-Arts.

Filmography:

1962 KNIFE IN THE WATER
1965 REPULSION
1966 CUL-DE-SAC
1967 THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS OR PARDON ME, BUT YOUR TEETH ARE IN MY NECK actor
1968 ROSEMARY'S BABY
1971 MACBETH
1972 WHAT?
1974 CHINATOWN
1976 THE TENANT actor
1979 TESS
1986 PIRATES
1988 FRANTIC
1992 BITTER MOON
1994 DEATH AND THE MAIDEN director
1999 THE NINTH GATE
2002 THE PIANIST

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Cast & Crew

Directed by: Roman Polanski

Written by: Ronald Harwood, Wladyslaw Szpilman (and Book)

Produced by: Alain Sarde, Robert Benmussa, Roman Polanski

Cinematography: Pawel Edelman

Editing: Hervé de Luze

Original Score: Wojciech Kilar

Main Cast: Maureen Lipman (Mother Szpilman), Thomas Kretschmann (Wilm Hosenfeld), Adrien Brody (Władysław Szpilman), Frank Finlay (Vater Szpilman), Emilia Fox (Dorota), Michal Zebrowski (Jurek), Ed Stoppard (Henryk Szpilman)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Cinematographer – Prix Carlo Di Palma 2002
  • European Film 2002
  • European Director 2002
  • Feature Film Selection 2002