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The interaction between the two is also symbolic of the innocence of the prewar state. Before the war, interactions and romantic interludes between Jew and Caucasian were no problem. During the war, however, Jews were marginalized to the point where they were no longer recognized as human beings. This is symbolized by the harsh treatment of an old Jewish man by a Nazi soldier, also during the beginning scenes. The man is ordered to walk away from the sidewalk and into the gutter, where he steps into water. This contrasts with the pleasure that Szpilman and the blonde derives from their interaction. Visually, the contrast between the Jews and Germans is symbolically depicted by the physical differences between Szpilman and the girl, which would become symbolic not only of ethnic differences, but also of the way in which these differences are used to justify the death of hundreds of thousands of Jews.
The visual depiction of the interaction between Szpilman and the girl is brightly colored. They accompany each other on their way through town. The innocence and enjoyment of this excursion is contrasted by the dark social realities that are related with the bombings at the beginning of the film: the sign "No Jews" thoroughly ruin Szpilman's first date: he cannot take her to a restaurant, to a park, or even to sit on a bench, because everything has been reserved to exclude Jews. This is symbolic of the ultimate ruination of lives that becomes the theme of the film.
Most poignantly, music and its potential salvation is symbolized by the instruments in Szpilman's home. When he reaches his family, they are relieved to see him. The atmosphere is frantic, busy and almost excited when he arrives. This is however soon darkened by the reality of their situation. Throughout the ordeal, the audience is impressed with the sense of the family unit between Szpilman, his siblings and his parents. This, like the peace, is also soon shattered by the realities of the war. The violin and the piano symbolize potential salvation. Initially, it is suggested that the family hide the excess of their already dwindling funds in the violin so that the Nazis cannot confiscate it, while the piano is sold in order to keep food on the family's table.
Despite this, there is soon too little money left to buy anything, and the progressive poverty of the family is symbolized by the decreasing amounts of money available: 5,000 zlotys become the 20 left in the mother's purse and then the 3 that could be obtained for the novel, the Idiot. Music was unable to provide the family with financial security or salvation. This however both contrasts with and foreshadows the later salvation that Szpilman would obtain from his music. It is an inner salvation that perpetuates itself by being shared.
The various contrasts of visual presentation and sound also depicts the war not only between the main parties at opposite sides of the political spectrum, but also within each character's heart. The Nazi for example could sympathize with the Jew, while the Jew in desperation for survival may ultimately join the Nazis against his own people. It is a continual dynamic of backstabbing and heroism, with human motive and desire underlying politics.
Roman Polanski has made the film with extreme attention to detail. Having been part of the events himself, the audience is impressed with the authenticity not only of the events, but also of the set and surroundings. Indeed, it is unlikely that authors on the subject could disagree on the point of historical authenticity of the physical surroundings. This was enhanced by the work of professionals such as the designer Allan Starski and the costume designer Ann Sheppard. Both were previously involved in films of this, with distinguished works such as Schindler's List and the Insider on their profiles. This talent combines with Polanski's passion for the perfection of detail in his work (Lownes).
Petrakis does however suggest that the use of a single character's viewpoint to depict the entire story might act as a limiting factor within the film. The events are seen and experienced solely through the eyes of the Pianist, the Jew who often survives on the basis of no more than luck. As such, Petrakis believes that true objectivity is lost.
A rather significant point for authenticity is however the fact that the story is told from the dual perspective of an author and a filmmaker who have experienced the actual events depicted. This in itself provides the film with a sense of accuracy. Indeed, rather than adjusting the film for modern tastes, more modern tendencies were modified to create greater accuracy. Redlich addresses the issue of decidedly non-objective historians who have ignored significant facts of history relating to the Jews and Nazis during the time of the film. Particularly, the author mentions the issue of Nazis offering help to Jewish victims.
According to the author, it appears that many Jews have suppressed memories of Germans have helped them in their escape and survival efforts during the time of the Holocaust. This is an issue portrayed with particular authenticity and accuracy within the film. While the Nazis are undoubtedly brutal, they are also human in a great number of respects. This is most poignantly demonstrated in the help the main character receives from the German.
Polanski's own experience during his childhood and now in his capacity as a father lends a further sense of authenticity to the emotion in the film. Being acutely aware of his own displacement as a child, Polanski brought this sense of being lost to the main character of the film. The character is completely left to his own devices, without friends or family to assist him. He is utterly alone in his world, but finds within himself and in his talent a new sense of connection. It is like a child returning to a parent, or a long-lost patriot who returns to the country of his birth. The pianist's music brings not only himself, but also his audience, home to the peace they experienced before the invasion. By revisiting the profession he took for granted before the invasion, he is able to help himself and his audience once again touch upon the human element within themselves that was unsoiled by the war and its atrocities. This human elements lends and extra dimension to the authenticity of the film.
An interesting element of authenticity is addressed by Larry Wolff. The music in the film as well as the book is one of the central elements in the story. Indeed, it is the most important elements in the story. It is responsible for life, hope and healing. Wolff however notes that, while the film depicts Frederic Chopin's music as an anthem to not only spiritual, but also to national survival, this is not necessarily entirely accurate. Indeed, while Chopin is of Polish origin and also heavily involved in the Polish cause, his music itself is not purely symbolic of Polish culture before the war. In fact, in the decades before the war, Chopin's music was appreciated only in a limited fashion by Polish audiences. During the pre-war years, much of Polish culture was integrated with the Austria rule of the time.
The musical world was colored by the operetta, imports from Vienna and Paris, as well as dance music. Indeed, many Polish popular musical forms were the result of imports rather than nationally emerging forms. Austria was also directly involved in introducing Richard Wagner's music to the country during 1888, and for performing the music of Chopin.
This does not however invalidate the central motif of music in the film, or indeed the fact that the Pianist used Chopin's music in the way depicted. The only inaccuracy that might be identified here is the fact that Austria is never mentioned in its influence on the musical tastes in the Poland of the time. Nevertheless, such mention might have seemed unnecessary, as it had not part in the Nazi occupation and the struggle during the time.
Petrakis's critique can once again be mentioned here. The author argues that, as mentioned above, Szpilman's single-eyed view detracts from providing a truly objective account of the events. The audience experiences everything through the eyes of the single Jewish character. According to Petrakis, a more accurate depiction might have been provided had Szpilman taken a less involved role.
Another objection that Petrakis raises is the theme of salvation. According to the film, the Pianist's music plays a central role in his salvation, as well as those of his compatriots. In the book however, the main character is saved in a more material fashion - primarily by the German soldier who saves him from the gas chamber. Had this not occurred, he would not have survived to play the piano. Furthermore, Petrakis argues that the motive for this…[continue]
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