It took me three long sittings and almost a month to finish the movie The Pianist. I’m one of three people who live here and the other two dominate the TV. I watched it at night after everyone went to bed. I could have watched it while they were at work and school, but it didn’t feel right.
For those of you who don’t know, The Pianist is about a musician, Wladyslaw Szpilman, and his journey through WWII as a Jew. You’ve probably seen it, or can do a search to find a better synopsis. I am in a rush today so you won’t find it here.
Writechick found the movie “obtuse”. Maybe if I had watched it in the theater, or even in one stretch I would have agreed, but the small bites, strangely brought it together. I had time to reflect in between viewings. I was shocked by the universally cruel German soldiers. I didn’t know there were Jews brought in by the Nazis to wrangle the other Jews, beating them and making demands. I didn’t know how it was easy to escape, but difficult to hide. It never occurred to me that people not in hiding had to raise money for the Jews in hiding to eat and survive. There were other moments – when the man in the wheel chair couldn’t stand so they tossed him out the window – when the officer forced the Jews to dance joyfully- simple, horrible things that would never occur to me opened up to me the terrible times they lived even more than the pictures of bodies piled up, or even my visit to the concentration camp so many years ago.
I was not comforted by the end of the movie when the Nazi soldier took mercy on Szpilman. After Szpilman played the piano for him he had mercy on him, bringing him food (including some delectable jam) and giving Szpilman his coat. The officer told him several times that the Russians would be there soon. I wondered if that was an act of mercy or an act of self-preservation. While the guard was rounded up, heading to the Russian camp, he called on a freed Jewish musician to find Szpilman, hoping perhaps he would return the kindness shown him. The German died in the camp. The two never saw each other again.
It was difficult and eye-opening to watch, but the thing that most changed my soul (I am sorry I had to write that “soul” bit) was the very end. The Jews were free. Szpilman was playing piano for the radio. He was clean shaven and wore a tie. Things appeared normal. He lost his family, his loved ones and almost died of jaundice. There was no indication things were different. Perhaps his playing had a depth it never did before. He must have been transformed. How could things look the same?
I have no frame of reference to empathize with him. Usually I can find some, say he has children or a chronic illness. There is nothing in my emotional mind that relates to what he went through. In that way, my heart was lost. Movies like that are so important, even if they are not necessarily entertaining. While he looks the same, I can’t stay the same. Even so, I know one Holocaust survivor. I could never go up to him, “Hey – I saw The Pianist – I really get what you went through.” Can you even imagine? I also didn’t get that the Jews experiences could be so different. Some were murdered right away. Others were put to work. I don’t know how much of that didn’t get through to me before. I’ve read and watched tv and movies about the Holocaust. This one taught me something I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else.
Check it out or not. You might be more worldly that I am or have read the right books so this is nothing new. If you haven’t, skip the popcorn and watch it in three segments. What I learned was without parallel.
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