The Pianist – Finding Light Among the Dark

the pianist movie

The Holocaust of Nazi Germany, Axis governments and military authorities from Europe was one of the most devastating act a nation could have done during World War II. The Pianist presented a broken man's story in a broken world while still holding on to his hopes and dreams.

The pianist movie

The Pianist is a biographical war drama directed by Roman Polanski, starring Adrien Brody as Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Jewish-Polish pianist and composer. This movie takes place during the World War II Holocaust in Warsaw, Poland. It was originated and based on a biographical war memoir book written by Szpilman himself.

The story begins with a brilliant young pianist playing the piano for the Polish Radio when the station is bombed during the Poland invasion abruptly by Nazi Germany. As the war ensues, Warsaw soon becomes part of the Nazi-controlled General Government. The radio station closed, Jews are prohibited from owning businesses. This policy caused mass poverty. Some young people are forced into slavery while a bunch of people are exterminated.

Throughout the film, we see how the Jewish population in Poland, especially the lower classes, are being treated poorly by Nazi soldiers. Dead bodies flooded the city streets as adults and children risked their lives for food. Szpilman and his family suffered as many others. When they no longer have money to feed themselves, they have to sell his piano, eventually their whole house.

In this situation, fascism was to blame. This political movement of fascism emerged in 20th century Europe. When Hitler began to implement fascist agendas, they only valued Germany's people and excluded all minorities who weren't of German state's origin – especially Jews. Many people were led to dehumanizing Jewish people and believed in exterminating them to 'cleansing' the Earth. Thus, Jews suffered tremendously from discrimination and poverty as they weren't being treated like humans.

By August 1942, Szpilman and his family are about to be exported to the Treblinka Extermination camp as part of Operation Reinhard. Fortunately, Szpilman is saved by his friend who belonged to the Jewish ghetto police, resulting in him being separated from his siblings and parents.


Szpilman was in sorrow after being separated from his family. Left alone in Ghetto, Warsaw's dead city, Szpilman works as a slave to stay alive. Over time, Szpilman manages to escape and being put to various hideouts with other musicians' help, waiting until the war is over.

That moment is the essence of what was left of humanity throughout the war. Despite the extreme fascism, some people refused to dehumanize Jews. During this era, a handful of people denied the fascist propaganda and formed an underground resistance. These people mainly consist of sympathetic non-Jewish people, war refugees, and some Jewish police members. They primarily provide hideouts and shelters, though only for a limited time. However, the police can't guarantee refugees safety.

During the Warsaw Uprising in 1944, Poland soldiers shot the Germans just outside Szpilman's hiding apartment by a tank shell. That event forced Szpilman to move. For the following months, Warsaw is wholly destroyed. Szpilman desperately searches for food and shelter among the ruins whilst still having to hide from the soldiers.

Inside an abandoned house, Szpilman meets a German officer named Wilm Hosenfeld. Szpilman is incredibly scared, but he has no energy to flee. After Hosenfeld learns that Szpilman is a pianist, Hosenfeld asks him to play the grand piano inside the house. Although trembling and cold, Szpilman manages to play a short piece for the officer. Hosenfeld seems quiet and stoic, but the emotion is sparked in his eyes as Szpilman plays the piano with such passion. 

Hosenfeld watches as Szpilman tries to play the piano.

As he finishes, Hosenfeld tells him to hide in the attic inside the abandoned house. There, Szpilman is constantly supplied with food, drinks, and blankets. Though simple, the generous acts from Hosenfeld were what humanity desperately needs. A helping hand amidst all the chaos was enough to evoke hope for Szpilman to stay alive and convince him there are still good people after all.

In January 1945, Germans were retreating from the Red Army as the war reaches an end. Hosenfeld meets Szpilman at the attic for the last time, promises to listen to him playing the piano on the Polish Radio after the war. Hosenfeld gives him his coat and leaves. Later, Szpilman steps out of the house. He is found by Polish soldiers who escorts him to a safe camp.

Best movie screenshots: The Pianist (2002)

After the war, Szpilman is back as a pianist in the Polish Radio for a large and prestigious audience. Sadly, Hosenfeld's died in 1952 under Soviet captivity. He never got the chance to listen to Szpilman again.


This utterly devastating depiction of what fascism and war can do to nations proves the fragility of humanity. The greed and pride of Nazi Germany led to a series of destructive consequences. This movie captures perfectly the unspoken sorrow from one single man as he strides in an aisle full of dead bodies and miserable people.

But amongst the damage the war had brought, there was still hope to be found. Hosenfeld and many other people who had helped Szpilman served as examples of how humans can still be kind to others without seeing differences. Hosenfeld, despite a German officer, helped Szpilman out of his own heart and kindness, and we should strive to do the same.

An extraordinary tale of one man's survival, The Pianist, is a story that we can all learn from. The resilient, persistent soul of Wladyslaw Szpilman was inspiring. The gruesome and monstrous portrayal of war and genocide was gut-wrenching. Indeed, a magnificent film.

Writer: Radya Ayufa

Editor: Hasna F