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January 03, 2003 - Image 79

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

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The re-created devastation of the Warsaw ghetto in "The Pianist" mirrors the childhood experience of director Roman Polanski,
pictured, who escaped the Krakow ghetto during World War II.

one sequence, the director caught
them and put the books back.
"Then he scolded us for half an
hour," Brody said with a laugh.
Polanski also didn't flinch when his
star — "skinny, freezing and nervous"
— claimed he had no energy to
repeatedly scale that wall back in
February 2001.
He told me, 'What do you need
energy for? Just do it!" the actor said,
perfectly mimicking a Polish accent.
The performance seems so real,
Brody admits, "because I wasn't acting."

Lingering Effects

The grueling experience toughened
Brody up, though the melancholy he
felt as Szpilman lingers.
"My friendships have suffered, and
unfortunately my relationship with
my girlfriend did not survive the
movie," he said with a sigh. "You find
yourself in places you didn't know
existed. I don't know how you can go
back to a place where you were prior
to this experience."
To make matters worse, Brody
returned from the European shoot and
the re-created scenes of a devastated
Warsaw that "made me cry" to New
York City, only to witness the events
of Sept. 11.
It prolonged, or reawakened, what
he was already feeling, said the actor,
who accompanied his mother to
Ground Zero to take photos.
"It made me appreciate what I have
— food, shelter, friends and loved
ones; eating when and what I want;
things I don't know how we take for
granted but we do."
Other than a light cameo role in the
upcoming Robert Downey Jr.-Mel
Gibson film The Singing Detective, a
part he took "to escape the weight I

carried around," Brody hasn't worked
for a year, he said.
"Many projects seem superficial
compared to The Pianist. I'm sitting
back and waiting for something inter-
esting to come."
And while he finds the positive buzz
for the film and his work "exciting,"
Brody admits that it "actually tor-
ments me to see myself in the film
because physically and emotionally, I
was destroyed."
"Of course," he said, "any suffering I

`THE PIANIST' from page 53

ness, isolation and alienation.
Although he is tall, Brody portrays
Szpilman as a small man, whittled by
starvation and dwarfed by the might
of the German occupation.
One of the vacant flats where
Szpilman is concealed has a piano,
but he dare not play lest he alert the
neighbors to his presence. The idea
that he was — and someday may be
again -- a concert pianist seems like
a grim joke, a pipe dream.

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endured was miniscule compared to
Szpilman's. But I felt a tremendous
responsibility to go to extremes in
Szpilman's memory and because I knew
how personal the film was to Roman."

— Arts er Entertainment
Editor Gail Zimmerman
contributed to this article.

.

The Pianist, rated R, opens
Friday, Jan. 3, in Detroit.

But a German officer, who foresees
the imminent demise of the Third
Reich and, perhaps, realizes that
Europe will need every available
artist, subsequently aids Szpilman.
It is ambiguous whether it is
Szpilrnan's talent that saves his life.
What The Pianist makes clear is that
the Nazis could not snuff his soul,
European Jewry or Western culture.
Szpilman lived and worked in
Warsaw, adding to the contributions
of Jewish artists to Polish culture,
until his death in 2000.

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The •
Szpilman
family in
happier
times
in "The

Pia nist

. "

1/ 3
2003

55

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