Monday, June 27, 2005
Finally watched The Pianist this weekend, the movie Adrien Brody won his well-deserved Oscar for. (Of course I’m sure I forgot who else was nominated immediately after the show, but it doesn’t matter now.) What was so wonderful about his performance was how understated it was. It wasn’t typically over-the-top Oscary in my opinion and managed to be incredibly powerful. But every time I see a Holocaust movie, I find myself as fascinated as though I’d never heard of it before and want to see everything ever made about it – it just seems unthinkable that human beings are capable of, you know, genocide. It makes me wonder if evil really exists – because I truly want to believe people are not born evil – but what the hell is going on in the collective minds of people wherein it becomes a good idea to erase entire populations? What was interesting to me about this movie was that Polanski (and Szpielman, whose memoir it was based on) didn’t shy away from the gray area of humanity – it seems like Szpielman’s life is basically saved by a Nazi at the end because… he was moved by his music. (This was a particularly heartbreaking scene, where Szpielman, utterly starved, freezing, and broken down, plays for the Nazi.) You know that that guy had to have been responsible for any number of deaths – so why save one for any reason, and, what does that say about that person? Also equally fascinating was the behind the scenes on the DVD because I knew Polanski himself had survived the Holocaust at a very young age, and in fact he talks about it quite a bit and how it informed this film in a number of ways, including the incredible details. (I had read his memoir sixty hundred million years ago – Ben’s new number – it’s a good one, right? – and ever since then I stopped caring what the real story is about the underage girl because Polanski is so bright and talented and charming – still elfinly cute even now – that he’s hard not to like. He’s no Michael Jackson.) There was one scene where he’s starving and finds a big can of pickles and can’t find anything to open it with and just keeps carrying it around even though it’s obviously heavy and he’s so frail – and I cried out at one point, “Oh my god, please, just open the can already!” The other thing that’s really fascinating about it is the survival mechanism that this man, and obviously many others, perhaps people we know, have. I doubt I have it to that degree. How do you lose your entire family and go on? Polanski says, “If you have a passion for something, like he did for music and I did for film, you just do.” I’m not sure my passion for writing would get me through the loss of my family or make me fight an old lady in the street for her last bowl of gruel (and then eat it off the ground when it fell), but I realize people are capable of going to incredible lengths to survive. Well, I could go on all day about all this.