#18. The Pianist : The great (and exiled) Roman Polanski directed this brilliant film, based upon Wladyslaw Szpilman’s autobiography. The film tells the story of how Szpilman evaded capture by the SS during Hitler’s seizure of Poland. Adrien Brody turns in the performance of a lifetime as Szpilman. As is the case with several movies on my list, its a historical piece so it gets an extra bump in the rankings. Moreover, I have a particular fondness for the movie as its based on events that took place during WWII.
No doubt there have been many films based upon the plight of those that suffered during Hitler’s reign of terror. So its not exactly easy to direct a film that takes a unique perspective on this sad part of our history. Yet Polanski succeeds in part because it is a personal venture. Polanski lost a mother during the holocaust and managed to flee to the countryside, thus avoiding capture as did Szpilman. The terror that gripped Szpilman is portrayed quite ably by Brody; he even lost 29 lbs. during production of the film. In turn, he became the youngest man ever to win an Academy Award for Best Actor.
Some may fine The Pianist a bit dull, but the desolation and despair that characterized Szpilman’s life as he hid and ran from the SS is quite palpable; for that I think its deserving of a spot on my list.