The Pianist
***.8 GM
Starring: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Maureen Lipman, Ed Stoppard

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There's not a lot of piano playing in this movie, you may be surprised to learn. There is, however, a hell of a lot of hiding from Nazis.

This is the true story of a successful Polish pianist named Szpilman who refuses to run from his homeland as the Nazi advance overruns his country, forcing him into a long nightmare of tragedy, destitution, starvation and frantic scurrying to hide from impending doom at every turn. This includes long stretches in abject solitude and silence, killing time by imagining his own piano work or dwelling on his own ordeal, hoping that his next food delivery will arrive before he starves to death.

Not a chipper tale.

Adrien Brody undergoes an amazing transformation from the high-class society favorite to the filthy vagabond scrambling for any scrap of food and nearly losing the ability to speak. It's an incredible performance that demands a lot of subtlety and non-verbal emoting from an actor, and this guy has got the chops. The result is a moving, chilling and quietly terrifying experience.

What makes it work is the fact that there are so many extended sequences with virtually no dialog or music, so we feel the silence this man who built his life around melody has to endure, and every time a sound is made, we pay that much more attention to it. It underscores just how important music is to everyone - soothing the frayed soul.

It's a captivating film that can be uncomfortable to watch, but I couldn't turn away.

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