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Milt Gross Movie Review: "The Pianist" directed by Roman Polanski
By Milton M. Gross
Dec 16, 2012 - 12:05:21 AM

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This is a horrible movie. Actually, it's one of those great movies, very well done that take us back to a horrible time and series of events.

I can't imagine why anyone or group following anyone would take part in something as awful and cruel to fellow humans as the Nazi tyranny during World War II.

It is as well done as Schindler's List, which was so good I never want to see it again. That's not cynicism, because both are so realistic they would be downright frightening if you didn't realize this all happened in the 1940s.

Polish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman, played by Adrien Brody in an Oscar-winning role, goes through horrors during World War II, when the Nazi army forces the Polish Jews to settle in part of Warsaw, builds a wall to keep them there, and then sends them by freight cars to be gassed in the German's infamous death chambers.

As we viewed it, I wondered how humans can treat fellow people in such an awful way. A scene that may never leave my memory is when the German soldiers line the Polish residents up to march them to the trains, then pull ten or so from the line, force them to lie on their stomachs with their faces down to the pavement, and shoot them in the back of their heads with pistols. In the movie, a soldier runs out of ammunition and, with his foot next to the next victim's head, loads his pistol and fires into the back of the victims head.

I once met a man, who had escaped an East European Communist country and took him to Grafton Notch State Park in western Maine in a notch between Old Speck and Baldpate mountains. The man, while admiring the view, said that he could not imagine standing out in the open as he was, having a conversation with someone, without worrying about a soldier listening from behind a tree and listening.

I'll never forget that man.

Perhaps that memory of meeting a real-live man, who had swum a river to make his escape, made the movie seem all the worse to me. At any rate, the movie was so real we felt like we were there.

The Pianist showed all the atrocities of the Nazi Germans, and gradually Szpilman's ordeal began to come to an end. He was hidden in an apartment, snuck a bit of food when possible, and then as the Russians moved into Warsaw nearby buildings were fired upon and destroyed in terrible blazes.

Szpilman eventually was rescued after being nearly shot. He was wearing a Nazi coat at the moment, and the rescuers assumed him to be a German. He hid in a building's rubble, shouted repeatedly that he was Polish, and eventually was ordered to surrender with his hands in the air.

The Russians asked him why he was wearing a Nazi coat, and he replied, "I'm cold."

At the end of the story, the Pianist was once more playing for appreciative audiences.

He remained in Warsaw, continued to play the piano, and died when he was 88.

We obtained our copy of the DVD from Netflix.

If you want to see a horrible, true story of man's insane inhumanity to other humans, and a happy ending, rent The Pianist, or buy it, or get a copy wherever you can find one.

I'll never forget the man we met who had escaped Eastern Europe's version of Communism, Schindler's List, or The Pianist.

I'd like to forget.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at lesstraveledway@midmaine.com.

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2012

Milt Gross Down the Road A Piece Column

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