Movie Review: No 53. The Pianist

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Movie Review: No 53. The Pianist

‘The Pianist’ plays out much like any World War II true story; It is a story about humanity punctuated by scenes of graphic violence and inhumanity.

The film follows the true life story of Polish Jew Wladyslaw Szpilman, who was famous in his day as possibly the most accomplished pianist in all of Europe.

Watching this blemish on our collective World history play out is like sitting in a darkened corner recalling all the vilest, most horrible and embarrassing things we’ve ever done in our lives over and over again, with absolutely nothing to do about it but sit there, rocking back and forth, crying, “Why? Why? Why?!”

The following simple lines really struck a chord with me early on in the movie:

Wladyslaw Szpilman: It’s an official decree, no Jews allowed in the parks.
Dorota: What, are you joking?
Wladyslaw Szpilman: No, I’m not. I would suggest we sit down on a bench, but that’s also an official decree, no Jews allowed on benches.
Dorota: This is absurd.

It was absurd then, and it boggles the mind now, that we, as human beings, could treat an entire race of people as if they were animals. I was almost tempted to go and get out my stepladder and climb atop my high horse and declare, “How could you stand aside and let this happen? How could a whole country let its people be virtually exterminated?”

If I jump back down off my trusty steed for a minute however it becomes immediately apparent that this kind of thing is still going on to this day, and a lot closer to home than one would care to imagine. It may not be quite as overt as branding people with the Star of David and then marching them off to their certain doom, but surely the more insidious forms of racism (or any “ism” for that matter) are just as deplorable? To this day, I sit by and watch as acts of hate are perpetrated against fellow human beings. And what do I do about it? Nothing.

I don’t want to get too political here,  however I have been moved by this film to at least say my piece. Here ‘goes…

First of all, I absolutely 100% agree that homosexual people should be allowed to get married (not in a church perhaps, although I suspect that there are few homosexual people who would want the Church coming anywhere near them on such an important occasion). My main argument is: Why not? What on Earth could straight people have to gain by denying this basic human desire to celebrate love? De facto homosexual couples already enjoy the same legal rights as straight de facto and married couples (with a few exceptions that will no doubt be amended soon anyway). Homosexual couples will continue to cohabitate whether they have a piece of paper or not, so what possible difference could it make to anyone else? It just seems spiteful to me, as if by withholding this one thing straight people are retaining “the edge” over their homosexual counterparts. How petty and positively pointless. Step aside and let the fabulousness of gay weddings abound!

What has this got to do with the Holocaust? Well, of course homosexual people were on the firing line just as the Jews were! Disabled people: out. Non-blondes: out too. Austrians? Oh you better believe they were out! The funny thing in all of this is of course that Hitler was a suspected homosexual with Austrian and Jewish heritage, a gammy leg and brown hair. You couldn’t possibly get a better example of “projection” of self loathing if you tried!

The other hot topic in Australia is of course the issue of “boat people”. There are valid arguments to be made against over-population and preservation of culture and myriad other reasons why you might disapprove of foreign nationals landing on our shores (whether by boat or by aeroplane, which is of course a far, far greater source of asylum seeker transportation). My biggest issue with the “boat people” debate is the fear-mongering. If you are going to argue against “boat people” at least argue on the basis of fact and NOT whatever came vomiting out of a sleazy politician’s mouth. God knows you couldn’t find a worse source of truth if you tried, and using what they say to justify your opinions only makes you look uneducated and hateful. For my part, I don’t feel any more entitled to live in this beautiful country just because I was born here. I am extremely fortunate for having been born here and I’m not about to deny someone else that pleasure just because I don’t like the smell of their cooking in the lunch room or can’t understand them when they speak to me. I have met some amazing survivors of the most terrible atrocities you could imagine (worse even than those portrayed in ‘The Pianist’, if you can believe it) and I don’t for one second think that the World would be better off if they just “went back to where they came from”.

I guess my point is that I like to think I would have been one of those brave people who risked their own life to shelter a Jewish family Anne-Frank-style, but I don’t know that I would have been. I at least hope my keen sense of skepticism would have kept me from buying all the propaganda.

It truly is absurd, the thought of not being allowed in a public park on the basis of something we had zero control over. What is even more absurd is imagining that physical separation escalating to the re-housing of a whole group to one section of the city and then walling them in like dangerous animals. More absurd still to imagine that escalating to random acts of violence to the point where the inhabitants of that walled-in city don’t even blink an eye when stepping over the dead bodies of children in the street.

Yet this is exactly what happened to Wladyslaw Szpilman and his family.

If you are on the fence about the whole “boat people” issue, I ask that you first imagine that this is the city you were born and raised in, and had lived happily in your whole life:

oldwarsaw

Then imagine that you have the option of escaping to a new country or staying in a country that despises you because of the religion you were born into (whether you continue to practice that religion or not). Imagine that your options are being shot in the face, gassed, starved to death, tortured or otherwise brutally murdered, OR moving to another country and living out the rest of your life with the hard work and appreciation of someone who knows the true value of life.

Then imagine making it all the way to that new country only to be told “We’re full”.

Absurd.

I enjoyed ‘The Pianist’ because it stirred up all of these strong emotions I haven’t really needed to feel in a long time. War is such an abstract concept to me; something to be studied in school and learned from, not something to fear on a daily basis. I was indeed born in the lucky country.

If you like the colours black and brown then you will love the bleakness of ‘The Pianist’. If not, that’s cool… Hitler had an issue with those colours too.

(Oh, I went there!)

8.5 pumpkins.

I encourage each of you to take a minute to think about how lucky you are. Tell us, what makes you so lucky?

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5 responses »

  1. I’ll start! I feel lucky because I have an amazing family and parents who cared enough to teach me how to always strive to be the best I can be, and amazing fiance who’s taught be how to better it. I’m lucky because I have a roof over my head and puffy little sockies under my feet. I’m lucky because I went to great schools and had inspiring teachers (almost ‘Dead Poets’ level in some cases!) I’m lucky because instead of fearing I’ll be shot on the way to the shops to get dinner, I just park my butt in front of Neighbours and wait for it to be delivered to my lap! Most of all I’m lucky because I’m healthy.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly. The world (media!?) seem to have forgotten that it a bloody dangerous thing these people do. Boat People need to be stopped only to save their lives. The latest review suggested a more improved immigration system so it’s not so attractive, but there was barely a mention of this. Last year I had an intern whose parents where boat people. They were a great example, as a family, of what immigrants bring to this country.

    • It’s just such a drop in the ocean of immigration. If we were genuinely concerned about there being “no room” then we would review our immigration policies for kiwis and brits. The UK has double the population of Afghanistan (for example) but more than 5 times the immigration numbers. New Zealand has less than a 6th of the population of Sudan but represented 25,772 immigrants in 2010-2011 versus Sudan’s 682. I think it’s just a convenient excuse to justify racism really. (http://www.immi.gov.au/media/statistics/statistical-info/oad/settlers/setdatb.htm)

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