The Pianist: Synopsis

The winner of the top prize, the coveted Palme d'Or (Best Picture) award, at the 2002 Cannes International Film Festival, The Pianist is the latest film from one of the world's true visionary filmmakers: Roman Polanski. The film is Polanski's most personal statement, the one he has waited four decades to make, a testament to the belief that the triumph of the human spirit is wedded to the transforming power of art.

The Pianist was adapted by U.K. playwright/screenwriter Ronald Harwood ("The Dresser") from the autobiography of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jew who detailed his survival during World War II. A celebrated composer and pianist, he played the last live music heard over Polish radio airwaves before Nazi artillery hit. During the brutal occupation, he eluded deportation and remained in the devastated Warsaw Ghetto. There, he struggled to stay alive even when cast away from those he loved. He would eventually reclaim his artistic gifts, and confront his fears, with aid from the unlikeliest source – a German officer who helped him hide in the final days of the war.

Adrien Brody ("Summer of Sam," "The Thin Red Line") portrays Mr. Szpilman. The supporting cast includes Thomas Kretschmann ("Blade II"), Frank Finlay ("The Four Musketeers"), Maureen Lipman ("Educating Rita"), Emilia Fox (the "David Copperfield" mini-series), Ed Stoppard ("The Little Vampire"), Julia Rayner ("Topsy-Turvy"), and newcomer Jessica Kate Meyer.

Roman Polanski himself escaped the Cracow Ghetto, at the age of 7, through a hole in a barbed-wire fence. The Pianist marks the first time that he has made a movie in Poland in 40 years.

Polanski has received four Academy Award nominations over the years: for directing "Tess" and "Chinatown"; for his screenplay adaptation of "Rosemary's Baby"; and as director of foreign-language film nominee "Knife in the Water" (his first feature film). Among his other films are "Repulsion," "Macbeth," "The Tenant," "Frantic," and "Death and the Maiden."

A Focus Features presentation in association with Alain Sarde and Robert Benmussa. A Roman Polanski Film. The Pianist. Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Frank Finlay, Maureen Lipman, Emilia Fox, Ed Stoppard, Julia Rayner, Jessica Kate Meyer. Associate Producer, Rainer Schaper. Casting by Celestia Fox. Music by Wojciech Kilar. Production Designer, Allan Starski. Costume Designer, Anna Sheppard. Director of Photography, Pawel Edelman. Editor, Hervé de Luze. Executive Producers, Lew Rywin, Henning Molfenter, Timothy Burrill. Co-Producer, Gene Gutowski. Produced by Roman Polanski, Robert Benmussa, Alain Sarde. Based on the book by Wladyslaw Szpilman. Screenplay by Ronald Harwood. Directed by Roman Polanski.

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