***/**** Image C Sound A Extras B+
starring Adrien Brody, Daniel Caltagirone, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay
screenplay by Ronald Harwood, based on the book by Wladyslaw Szpilman
directed by Roman Polanski
by Walter Chaw It comes as little surprise that when the Nazis begin to build a wall around the Warsaw ghetto is also when Roman Polanski's Holocaust drama The Pianist becomes distinctive, as the director is at his best bound by the endlessly symbolic edifices and crannies of architecture. The story of Polish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody) and his survival under the auspices of the Polish underground, serendipity, and fear is almost anti-heroic, its central figure passive like the most memorable of Polanski's heroes (Rosemary, Carol Ledoux, Trelkovsky, even Jake Gittes after a fashion), and its indignities more intimate than the grand tapestry of the Holocaust generally allows. The loss of Szpilman's entire family to The Final Solution is less wrenching than the line that precedes it as Szpilman says to his sister, "I wish I knew you better," and less difficult again as the musician's inability to play a piano he's imprisoned with in a tenement flat while in hiding. Far from insensitive, The Pianist is actually intensely humanist, focused as it is on the little indignities that bring a man from his comfortable environment to the furtive edge of capricious extinction.