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Thread: Polanski's THE PIANIST

  1. #46

    Not the skin-head type...

    If you wanna know how powerful a leader Hitler was (and how he came to believe that he was doing the right thing for the future of humanity) read Mein Kampf. I read it as a curious civilian who wanted to know how "Hitler arose from the nation that gave us Beethoven" (paraphrasing). Also see the film Triumph of the Will.

    "Triumph" will show you:

    - How he made the crowd wait for HOURS before appearing to speak. (He was the first to exploit "fashionably late" imho)

    -How when he finally did appear he would be silent until it "was time" to speak.

    - How when he finally spoke he spoke softly, gently, drawing his people into his inspiring words (!)

    -How he would build in performance- shaking his fists, shouting at the gods, declaring the Reich as the end-all be-all of kingdoms on earth. What peasant german wouldn't be aroused?

    Hitler had the powers of persuasion all charismatic people posess:
    JFK, MLK, Malcolm X, Jerry Rubin, Abby Hoffman, hell, even Oscar the Grouch & Hulk Hogan have the same power to captivate..

    'Ol Adolf was a psychopath-just like Napoleon Bonaparte.


    __________________
    "I always direct the same film."- Federico Fellini

    I copied and pasted your note just to be sure I get all the words right. In the past I was chided for paraphrasing incorrectly and accused of suggesting that ALL Germans are potential Nazis. I don't think so.

    I certainly don't think you are the skin-head type, Johann. And I did see "Triumph of the Will". I looked forward to seeing it after the documentary on Leni Reifenstahl. I do believe she was an artist first and last and not necessarily a Nazi-sympathizer. An artist can not resist the opportunity to create, so I don't blame her at all for making that film, which is a historic document, as you say, which teaches, in a way, how a madman can sway a crowd, hold them spellbound, and in time create a national psychosis.

    Part of what I think is in THE GERMAN CHARACTER is the potential to be swayed by a criminal psychopath. I believe there are many countries in which such a charismatic leader would be hooted and ridiculed. It is sad to learn that the German masses were so bereft, that they would wait rather than leave if the 'fuhrer' were late. It is tragic that World War I left them so downtrodden that they would be craven to be supermen, the Master Race, instead of dealing realistically with their plight and understand that rebuilding did not require murder, robbery and mayhem. Where were Germany's Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela? Where were Germany's religious leaders? What happened to their Christianity--- Catholics and Lutherans? The religious leaders were afraid to die? What does that say about their faith in God? What does that say about their role-model, the Jew, Jesus Christ, who martyred Himself for the common good, for everlasting life?

    The film, "The Pianist" raises these questions again and again, which have only been partially answered, given all the historical realities. Of course it is easy to blame others. It was the fault of the Allies, the Treaty of Versailles, the failure of the League of Nations, the collapse of the German economy. Was war and conquest the only way to inspire the Germans?

    The blacks of South Africa showed more intelligence, common sense and decency than the Nordic 'master race.' Perhaps they learned something from history. Why didn't the Germans learn from history? They were an educated people. It wasn't only the peasants who followed Hitler.

  2. #47
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    Vbloom, just for your reference, try the "quote" button at the end of a person's message. It will format their comments as a quote offset from your response. Give it a shot; makes it easier to differentiate between your comments and what you're quoting.
    P

  3. #48
    Marina Guest

    Re: Extraneous issues and culpability

    they think, as David Denby says, that the hero is a blank, and that the film is without great originality or imagination? Do they think, as he has written, that Schindler's List has better acting and is more "complex"?

    ------------------
    I read that review and was kind of surprised by the fact that Denby seemed to be denying the very legitimate power of allegory. The flat-versus-round character opposition is useful sometimes, sure, but I don't like the way it has led to these assumed hierarchies with the psychologically nuanced, complex character at the top ... especially when you think about all the exciting ways people rehaul character in twentieth-century film and literature. I don't see why we have to be so obsessed with one type of character development ... Instead of bemoaning the fact that the character isn't fleshed out, he could have asked what purpose that might serve. What happens when there is that type of character, almost a vacuum, at the center of a movie, where is our attention drawn, how does that absence make us concentrate on other things in the narrative, etc.?

    As far as Holocaust movies go, has anyone mentioned Sophie's Choice? Someone must have ... There's also Aus Einem Deutschen Leben, which I saw a couple of months ago. It traces the life of the Auschwitz commander Franz Lang. I thought it was a painfully good example of the whole "banality of evil" concept ... you could hear Adolf Eichmann in Lang's (really pathetic, it goes without saying) defense of his actions. Still, it was a little shocking for me, as an American, because I'm used to films that follow that unwritten rule that the Holocaust victims themselves must be put unflinchingly at the center. So there was something unsettling about seeing a Holocaust movie where concentration camp prisoners are almost completely absent, on the periphery. I guess it was necessary for this particular movie (to present an idea of what Franz Lang thought he was) but I left feeling that something essential was missing.

    - Marina

  4. #49

    Re: Re: Extraneous issues and culpability

    Originally posted by Marina
    they think, as David Denby says, that the hero is a blank, and that the film is without great originality or imagination? Do they think, as he has written, that Schindler's List has better acting and is more "complex"?

    ------------------
    I read that review and was kind of surprised by the fact that Denby seemed to be denying the very legitimate power of allegory. The flat-versus-round character opposition is useful sometimes, sure, but I don't like the way it has led to these assumed hierarchies with the psychologically nuanced, complex character at the top ... especially when you think about all the exciting ways people rehaul character in twentieth-century film and literature. I don't see why we have to be so obsessed with one type of character development ... Instead of bemoaning the fact that the character isn't fleshed out, he could have asked what purpose that might serve. What happens when there is that type of character, almost a vacuum, at the center of a movie, where is our attention drawn, how does that absence make us concentrate on other things in the narrative, etc.?

    As far as Holocaust movies go, has anyone mentioned Sophie's Choice? Someone must have ... There's also Aus Einem Deutschen Leben, which I saw a couple of months ago. It traces the life of the Auschwitz commander Franz Lang. I thought it was a painfully good example of the whole "banality of evil" concept ... you could hear Adolf Eichmann in Lang's (really pathetic, it goes without saying) defense of his actions. Still, it was a little shocking for me, as an American, because I'm used to films that follow that unwritten rule that the Holocaust victims themselves must be put unflinchingly at the center. So there was something unsettling about seeing a Holocaust movie where concentration camp prisoners are almost completely absent, on the periphery. I guess it was necessary for this particular movie (to present an idea of what Franz Lang thought he was) but I left feeling that something essential was missing.

    - Marina
    Sophie's Choice is another film which makes me wonder about THE GERMAN CHARACTER. I can't imagine an American soldier perpetrating such a sadistic cruelty on a mother with two small children. But these are things that German soldiers did! Including ripping an infant out of a mother's arms and bashing it's head against the wall! We should just forget? We have to understand... and so far, we do not understand.

  5. #50
    Marina Guest

    Re: Re: Re: Extraneous issues and culpability

    Originally posted by vbloom


    Sophie's Choice is another film which makes me wonder about THE GERMAN CHARACTER. I can't imagine an American soldier perpetrating such a sadistic cruelty on a mother with two small children. But these are things that German soldiers did! Including ripping an infant out of a mother's arms and bashing it's head against the wall! We should just forget? We have to understand... and so far, we do not understand.
    -----------------------------
    The Holocaust and its methods of extermination are unique and terrible, yes. I don't want to gloss over that fact. However, you should know that American soldiers have perpetuated sadistic cruelities ... they too have victimized and tortured civilians (and with racist motivations). The US military's role in the American Indian genocide is an obvious example. It's not too farfetched to draw parallels between, say, the concentration camp death marches and the Trail of Tears, a forced march during which over 4000 Cherokee died. You can find many many individual stories of Indian persecution at the hands of the US military online. (I can give you some links if you're interested.)
    It would be unfortunate and irreponsible for anyone to use these stories to create an idea of the "American Character."

    - Marina

  6. #51

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Extraneous issues and culpability

    Originally posted by Marina


    -----------------------------
    The Holocaust and its methods of extermination are unique and terrible, yes. I don't want to gloss over that fact. However, you should know that American soldiers have perpetuated sadistic cruelities ... they too have victimized and tortured civilians (and with racist motivations). The US military's role in the American Indian genocide is an obvious example. It's not too farfetched to draw parallels between, say, the concentration camp death marches and the Trail of Tears, a forced march during which over 4000 Cherokee died. You can find many many individual stories of Indian persecution at the hands of the US military online. (I can give you some links if you're interested.)
    It would be unfortunate and irreponsible for anyone to use these stories to create an idea of the "American Character."

    - Marina
    Marina, you are quite right to give examples of the cruelties of Americans. Are these the exceptions or the rule? The massacres of the Indians were largely in the 19th and 18th centuries. The New World was young then, (it still is!) and aggressive land-grabbing was the rule of the day, commonplace and accepted by the world as a given.

    Germany in World War II was an old country with a highly developed civilization and cultural values. The barbarism of the Nazi soldiers was in stark contrast to the prevailing values of civilization. It was widespread and ongoing. I don't believe that Americans of the 20th century would be capable of such atrocities on such a large scale.

    I believe that the American character, mostly moral and religious, is superior, that is, more civilized, than THE GERMAN CHARACTER, the barbarism of which was vividly portrayed in "The Pianist." People can say that there is no such thing as the character of nations, or that the subject is not appropriate for discussion. They can opt out if they so wish, or give philosophical, moral or historical arguments as to why the character of a nation is not fit for discussion or debate.

    vb

  7. #52
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    A few more to add

    I would add "The Longest day" and "Come and See" to that list of worthy WWII films.

    Vbloom said:

    >>Is it stereotypical thinking to say that anti-Semitism is endemic and growing within Islam and Europe?<<

    It certainly is growing or should I say "blooming" in Europe. The stench of Anti-semitism hangs over the throngs who rush into the streets to protest America hard line on Iraq.

    In Islam, it's not only the religion but the culture that breeds Anti-Semitism and Anti-American sentiment. The most important and influential Islamic philosopher on this subject was Sayyid Qutb, a former leader and theoretician for the Muslim Brotherhood. His contention was that Western civillization separated the realm of God from the realm of society and put those two realms into a conflict with each other. He claimed that in the west science and reason had annihilated religion.

    Qutb's alternative to the west's "jahiliyya" (a condition of social chaos, moral diversity, sexual promiscuity, polytheism, unbelief and idolatry) was Islam. Not simply as a religion but also a economic, political and civil system based on Islam that enforced the teachings of Mohammed. To this day, many Muslims believe that it's impossible to "practice" Islam within a secular framework.

  8. #53
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    The Hollow Character Made A Hallow Movie

    I found Adrien Brody's character hollow and as the central figure in the movie, I found it difficult to develop much sympathy for him. As those around him suffered even greater indignities and sacrifices, Brody's character through luck and his artistic talent appeared to survive. Yet even throughout the movie, there is very little that we find out about Brody's character's feelings, his thoughts in the darkened nights, the terror on the streets. While the audience gets many images, Brody's central presence almost cries out for how such horrific events played on the blankness of Brody's character. For so much happening, there was so little character development, so little meaningful interaction between characters. I get more in terms of emotional empathy and emotive feelings fifteen minutes of watching a television series such as "24" than I did in The Pianist. The shock value of the brutal, random killings does echo harshly, but yet somehow, I found something central missing in this movie...it was the lack depth of passion, interaction, the humanity the survived in the war in addition to just the strength of the music itself.

  9. #54

    Re: The Hollow Character Made A Hallow Movie

    Originally posted by tabuno
    I found Adrien Brody's character hollow and as the central figure in the movie, I found it difficult to develop much sympathy for him. As those around him suffered even greater indignities and sacrifices, Brody's character through luck and his artistic talent appeared to survive. Yet even throughout the movie, there is very little that we find out about Brody's character's feelings, his thoughts in the darkened nights, the terror on the streets. While the audience gets many images, Brody's central presence almost cries out for how such horrific events played on the blankness of Brody's character. For so much happening, there was so little character development, so little meaningful interaction between characters. I get more in terms of emotional empathy and emotive feelings fifteen minutes of watching a television series such as "24" than I did in The Pianist. The shock value of the brutal, random killings does echo harshly, but yet somehow, I found something central missing in this movie...it was the lack depth of passion, interaction, the humanity the survived in the war in addition to just the strength of the music itself.
    Tabuno___ A writer for The New Republic, Michael B. Oren, makes the same point in the March 17 issue. I took exception to it then as I do now. As a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst I know that some people, for varied and many reasons, learn to hide the outward show of their emotions. This does not mean that they are hollow or superficial. Ever hear of the saying, "still waters run deep?" The clue to Szpilman's depth and emotionality is the quality of his playing. No one can play Chopin like that without deep feeling. One has to appreciate music, musicianship and creativity to fully understand that.

    Further, the Brody character, as you cooly put it, is not just a person, but the embodiment of an entire race of people, a people who survive despite all obstacles and all brutal assailants. The history of the Jewish people seems to indicate that we survive by accident, despite anti-Semitism and the genocidal impulses of a hostile and barbaric world.

    Szpilman is a poetic image, a metaphor, of the contrast between the barbarism of the anti-Semites and the civilization of the Jews. The fact of our survival hints at some divine plan. Maybe the Jews ARE CHOSEN, to carry the torch of civilization in spite of everything. The movie shows that with some help and some accidents and some divine providence, Szpilman survives, Chopin survives, art survives, humanity survives bestiality.

    The aristocracy of this seemingly implacable Jew, who doesn't even care that he is a Jew, doesn't declare that he is a Jew, is evident in his bearing, and in the ability of Chopin's music to touch the soul of a Beethoven lover. The movie transcends mere human emotions and shows the universalizing magic of music and reflects to all the arts.

    In the horrible carnage of World War II and the Holocaust, artistic passion unites the Jew and the Nazi and so the movie depicts the real purpose of the Jew on the face of the earth, to show the world that civilization is superior to barbarism and cannot be trampled or stifled.

    How does this happen?

    As if by magic.

    vb

  10. #55
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    Wow, very well put vbloom

    Looking at the performance from that point of view puts it in a new light for me.

  11. #56
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    Vbloom: After previous exchanges I didn't know that we could agree on anything but I like very much your eloquent defense here of Szpilman's personality and the validity and importance of the character as he is played by Adrien Brody. It's approprate to evoke the sense that "Still waters run deep." It is unfortunate that some viewers see the Szpilman character as empty; it seems to me that the experience the film evokes is one about which, ultimately, nothing can be said, because it is too horrific and too powerful. There are times when what one needs to do is feel, not speak, and thus the silence at the center of The Pianist is a profound and richly meaningful one, a silence to be relieved only by the sound of Chopin, because no human words can evoke the enormity of the Holocaust. You, vbloom, increase and enrich my already strong sense that this is an important and masterful film, and precisely for its centering on "the aristocracy of this implacable Jew." Well said, indeed.

  12. #57
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    The Advantage of Film Wasn't Used

    I can agree that personality can be submerged and what we get on the surface appears hollow but underneath there is a seething roar of personality. If The Pianist were a stage production on Broadway, I might be able to accept the hollow persona of Adrian Brody. But as a movie, to NOT use a narrative voice over to penetrate the inner sanctum of Adrian Brody's real character is unforgiveable, if this movie is to be awarded an Oscar for Best Actor and Best Director. There was so much left unspoken, too many questions left unanswered. It don't think it's fair to force Adrian Brody's character to carry the weight of the entire Jewish race, being a composite representation of a religious group. As an individual personality, I wanted to know more, experience more, feel more than the music.

  13. #58

    Re: The Advantage of Film Wasn't Used

    Originally posted by tabuno
    I can agree that personality can be submerged and what we get on the surface appears hollow but underneath there is a seething roar of personality. If The Pianist were a stage production on Broadway, I might be able to accept the hollow persona of Adrian Brody. But as a movie, to NOT use a narrative voice over to penetrate the inner sanctum of Adrian Brody's real character is unforgiveable, if this movie is to be awarded an Oscar for Best Actor and Best Director. There was so much left unspoken, too many questions left unanswered. It don't think it's fair to force Adrian Brody's character to carry the weight of the entire Jewish race, being a composite representation of a religious group. As an individual personality, I wanted to know more, experience more, feel more than the music.
    Tabuno, I appreciate what you say, but I have an entirely different opinion. To me, if there was a voice-over, that would kill it. It would be as if the movie director was dictating to the audience what the reaction or the understanding should be. That would be, in my estimation, talking down to the audience, as if it didn't have the capacity to intuit what is under the surface. Lest this seem as too simple a disagreement, let me add my opinion that this particular movie is like poetry, which is part of its magic and greatness. Poetry includes metaphor, imagery and condensation. Much is said in a few words and the meaning is complex and multi-layered, and different readers get different messages from a poem. In the same way, I see Szpilman as the emodiment of the Jewish race, associated with the highest level of civilization and art. Music talent is like a gift from God, just as God supposedly 'Chose' the Jewish people to represent Him. And so music and art survives, the Jewish people survive. That is how the film spoke to me. It can speak to you in an entirely different way. I don't think it is 'unfair' to force Adrian Brody's 'character' to carry the weight of the entire Jewish race. I thought it not only fair, but great casting to make this implacable, aristocratic and enigmatic personna to represent the entire Jewish race. Such was Jesus Christ Himself. Szpilman's survival was like a miracle. He was born, he suffered, he made glorious music, he died and he survived.

  14. #59
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    vbloom--

    Again I agree with you completely: as I said earlier, the message is beyond words, so a "voiceover" would have been deadly. Szpilman's opposition and survival were wordless things. He did not expose himself or go around making declarations: all his focus was on simply surviving during that time. People who think this part of the film "drags" fail to recognize that "mere" survival can be a tremendous act of courage, and that it must be witnessed, that you cannot rush it. Through this technique "The Pianist" becomes both a depiction of the Holocaust and a meditation upon it. It is not a lecture. It is an experience. And one of tremendous power, for those who tune in to it.

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    What was going on inside his head?

    If I wanted poetry or photography or song to wash over me, I'd read a poem, look at a photograph, or listen to a CD. I'm one of those in the minority when it came to Bladerunner and the original voice over that Ridley Scott took out in his director's cut, which effectively killed the film noir of the movie. In The Pianst, the mental struggle, the detailed inner emotionally turmoil as in Diary of Ann Frank brings a deeper, biting, and chilling experience that was lost in this movie. War, brutality, inhumanity take its toll on the human spirit - but it's so often seen in terms of images and behavior, but what goes on inside is even more riveting and usually kept secret, hidden inside. This movie could have been so much more...but what the audience gets is what it has seen before, the evil Nazi indiscriminately killing, the suffering of the marked Jews. What was surprisingly absent in this movie than most others was the emotional connections between people other than the family and even the family wasn't given the depth of development to get to really know them. The disjointed development of the brother for example when he goes through a sudden transformation from spoiled brat to reserved, quiet gentlemen. Of all the characters, it was Adrien Brody who seemed to accidentally survive, in small part only because of his musical talent (not his will to survive), in some ways the weakest of characters compared to those who sacrificed their lives for him. What was this man thinking? What was his mental condition as he became ill? Even the Nazi hatred of Jews wasn't sufficiently addressed when he was in hiding and then suddenly the explosion of hatred from his neighbor when he was in hiding. Did Adrien Brody's character know this...suspect this...? Why didn't we know about it? Too many questions, too many puzzles left locked in Adrien Brody's mind to allow the images and sounds to wash smoothly over us... instead it screams for answers and flows so slowly that it makes sledge build up in one's brain.

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