• Eugene

The Pianist (2002)


It was a long evening with a film that was emotionally gruelling, but we still managed to join together for hybrid discussion. We welcomed a few participants who hadn’t joined us before.


People were positive about the short film that began our evening. Joe’s Violin was about a 91 year old survivor who donated his violin, the first thing he bought since liberation, to a girl from the Bronx. The message from the girl to Joe – “You survived with hope” – connected with Szpilman’s experience.


The transformative and humanising power of music linked the two films. However, as one member remarked, even Hitler liked to listen to music. We also thought about the difference between drama, with more suggestion of events – like Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt – and this film, which depicts reality so shockingly.


The Pianist reflected the truth that if people are reduced to mere objects, then evil can be done. Our discussion leader’s comment that he had taught the film so many times that the violent scenes did not affect him, led to the thought that this process of normalisation could be part of the psyche of the Nazi officers. We found the depiction of the harsh Jewish ghetto police, trying to survive through what felt like collaboration, to be uncomfortable.


A scene we appreciated was the moment Szpilman tasted jam brought to him by the Nazi officer. We could almost taste the sweetness and its bright colour contrasted with the more washed out colours used as the film progressed. The ‘good’ Nazi officer used the respectful German way of saying ‘you’ to talk to Szpilman, as opposed to the contempt used by others. We found the cutting and sharing of the caramel, as the Szpilman family wait to go on the cattle truck, to be symbolic and poignant.


It was a late night but we were glad we stayed. RCC had marked Holocaust Memorial Day 2022, symbolised by the flickering candle outside the hall.


Anne

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