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January 03, 2003 - Image 78

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-01-03

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Arts a Entertainment

ADRIEN BRODY from page 53

Thomas Kretschmann plays the officer of the Third Reich who helps
Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jew, survive.

GAIL ZIMMERIVIAN
Arts Enterainment Editor

T

here are decent Poles
and evil Poles in
Wladyslaw Szpilman's
memoir, decent and evil Jews
and decent and evil Germans,
writes Director Roman
Polanski about the book that
inspired his new film, The
Pianist.
Thomas Kretschmann plays a
decent German, Captain Wilm
Hosenfeld, who helped
Szpilman hide during the final

because he's free and he can
play with it. As a German, it's
always part of your history."
Kretschmann, an East
German native, trained for his
Country's national swimming
team from ages 10-17, and
would have competed at the
1980 Olympic Games had it
not been for the Communist
boycott.
While still a teenager, he
resolved to escape to the West,
and after 18 months of plan-
ning, set off on foot at age 20,
with the equivalent of $100,

Now living in L.A.,
Kretschmann appeared in two
Hollywood features, Jonathan
Mostow's U-571 and
Guillermo del Toro's Blade II.
He'll next be seen in the lead
role in Papa ("My Father"),
Egidio Eronico's film based on
true events in the life of the
son of Nazi war criminal Josef
Mengele (played by Charlton
Heston), and in Enki Bilal's
Human Trap, a big-budget
French action flick.

JN: When and how did you
first learn of the
Holocaust?
TK: Right away.
With Russians as Big
Brother, the East
Germans feel pretty
responsible for the
past. Every school
went to concentra-
tion camps and you
learned everything
about it. I don't
know about West
Germans growing up,
but the East Germans
were focused on it all
the time.
I really wanted so
much to be good in
this film for two rea-
sons. First it was a
Thomas Kretschman- n as Captain Wilm Rosenfeld• 'It's not that much fun for a
great director —
German actor to put a German uniform on."
Polanski — and sec-
ond,
and more
Inset: The real Wilm Hosenfeld, 1944.
important for me, we
carry this [historical]
responsibility.
days of the war.
making his way through
You read the script and you
Tanned, casually dressed and
Hungary, Czechoslovakia and
know everything about it
looking much younger than he
Austria, until he finally reached because that's how you grew
does in The Pianist, the outgo-
West Berlin.
up, and then you - realize it's a
ing Kretschmann spoke with
Within a few years, the aspir-
totally different story to read
the Jewish News at New York's
ing actor was invited to join
about it, to know about it, to
Essex House hotel while pro-
the Schillertheater Company,
know all the facts and then to
moting his new Film.
West Germany's equivalent of
see it.
"It's not that much fun for a
Britain's Royal Shakespeare
Because I think that's the
German actor to put a German
Company.
great cjuality about the film —
uniform on — [even though
He began acting in films in
that you're not watching actors
my character] is not a Nazi but
1989, and came to internation-
acting; you always have the
a soldier," he said.
al attention with a starring role
feeling you're within it.
"An American actor would
in Joseph Vilsmaier's \Vorld
I read the script, I knew
have much more fun with this
War II epic, Stahl/grad.
GERMAN SOLDIER on page 56

1/ 3

2003

54

State Of Isolation

Brody, who acknowledges "a great emotional and
psychological connection to Szpilman," said starving
helped him connect with his character's feelings of
loss and emptiness.
"I put myself in a state of isolation and deprived
myself as much as I could for a really long time, for
most of the six month [shoot]," said the actor.
Working 14 to 18 hours a day, he often cloaked
himself in periods of "solitary confinement," he said,
especially during the month and a half he shot
scenes in which he appears alone.
Barely speaking to others helped him "to create a
kind of reality you'd never have with another actor
there to inspire you," he said.
Instead, the piano became Brody's "closest corn-
panion."
"When I was at my thinnest and most isolated,
playing the piano was my distraction from hunger
and loneliness," said Brody, who really performs
Chopin in key sequences, although famed Polish
pianist Janusz
Olejniczak recorded
the film's music.
The actor recalled
one scene in the film
where he is in hiding
with a piano in the
room: "Here's a man
locked in a room
with his true love
and he can't touch
her," Brody said.

Life Imitating Art

The real Wladyslaw
Szpilman in 1978.
Szpilman died unexpectedly
in War saw in 2000, at
the age of 88, after a long
career as a concert pianist
and composer: Polanski
spoke with him about
the film version of
"The Pianist" befo
Szpilman's death.

Brody found the 69-
year-old Polanski
currently married to
French actress
Emmanuelle Seigner,
with whom he has
two young children
— to be a valuable
resource on whom to
partially model his
portrayal of SzpilMan.
"Roman shared many of his wartime memories, little
moments and anecdotes, which meant everything to
me," Brody said.
"At one point we were in Krakow and he took me
by the hand and showed me the place where a Polish
soldier had allowed him to sneak out of the area
where they were holding people for transport to the
camps.
"It was like Szpilman's experience of encountering
a German officer who helped save his life."
But Polanski — who would lie down in the dirt to
show an extra how to fake death — didn't make
many allowances for his weak, gaunt leading man,
even while giving the actor "a lot of freedom" to
play his part.
When Brody and another actor removed some
encyclopedias from a heavy box they had to carry in

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