150 minutes, France-Poland-Germany-U.K., 2002, D-Cinema

Having avoided using his work to address his own survival of WWII and the Holocaust in the early part of his career (significantly, Knife in the Water (1962) was one of the first Polish films made after 1945 with a non-war related theme), in The Pianist Polanski provided an account of experiences which strongly resounded with his own harrowing childhood as a Jew living in Nazi occupied Poland.

Based on the memoirs of musician Wladyslaw Szpilman, The Pianist traces the gifted player’s struggle initially in the appalling conditions of the Warsaw ghetto and afterwards in hiding as the city crumbles around him. Shedding light on a number of recurring elements in Polanski’s work, particularly claustrophobia, crisis and entrapment, the film also depicts a series of important historical events from this period, including the astonishingly courageous Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April-May 1943. 

 This film is showing as part of the IFI’s Focus on Roman Polanski (January 4th – 26th).


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