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"I Wish I Knew You Better."

For the past few weeks I've been researching the Warsaw ghetto for my next book. In doing so, I came across a film called, The Pianist. Shortly after I got it from the library, a fellow WWII buff asked me if I'd ever watched it and requested that I write a review on it. Perfect timing!

Warning: It's rated R for gruesome scenes in the ghetto which, I'll warn you, are very sickening to watch. I don't think anyone of any age could watch those scenes and not be affected by the horror and inhumanity. Also, there were several swear words, but definitely not as many as in other war movies.

It's based on the true story of Władysław "Wladek" Szpilman, a Polish pianist and musical composer. He wrote a memoir which I really want to read!

Wladek, his parents, sisters (Regina and Halina) and brother (Henryk) were forced to move into the Warsaw ghetto where Wladek continued to play piano at a cafe to support his family.

Henryk: Well, you know what's funny? You're funny, with that ridiculous tie.
Wladek : What are you talking about my tie for? What does my tie have to do with anything? I need this tie for my work!
Henryk: Oh, your work.
Wladek: Yes, that's right, I work.
Henryk: Yes, yes, your work. Playing the piano for the parasites in the ghetto.
Wladek: Parasites ...
Henryk: Yes, parasites. They don't give a damn about people suffering.
Wladek: And you blame me for their apathy, right?
Henryk: I do, because I see it everyday. They don't even notice what's going on around them.
Father: I blame the Americans.
Wladek: For what, for my tie?

Regina ...

Henryk ...
An acquaintance tries to get the Szpilman boys to join the Jewish Police Force, a group which oppressed their own people as they collaborated with the Nazis.

Henryk: I thought you only recruited boys with rich fathers. Look at my father, look at us.
Itzak Heller: Yes, I'm looking at you, and that's why I'm here. Your whole family can have a better life. You want to go on struggling for survival, selling books on the street?
Henryk Szpilman: Yes, please.

Halina ...

I loved the scenes when the entire family was together, even thought they were arguing a lot of the time. Though they were living under terrible fear and tension, you can sense how close they were. Or perhaps they become closer because of the events happening around them.

The family was arguing over where to hide their money since a law was passed that Jews could only have 2,000 zlotys in cash.

Henryk: No, no, no, listen, listen to me, I've been thinking...
Wladek: Oh, really? That's a change.
Henryk: You know what we do? We use psychology.
Wladek: We use what?
Henryk: We leave the money and the watch on the table, and we cover it like this, in full view.
Wladek: Are you stupid?
Henryk: The Germans will search high and low, I promise you, they'll never notice!
Wladek: That's the stupidest thing I've ever seen, of course they'll notice it. Look.
(takes the violin and a bill, folds it and slips it into the opening of the violin) Look here ... idiot.
Henryk: And you call me stupid?
Mother: No, that is very good, because that is the last place they will ever look.
Henryk: This will take hours!
Mother: We're not in a hurry, we'll get it back ...
Henryk: How will you get them out? Tell me that, tell me how, I'd like to know, how would you get them out. You take each one out individually...
Halina: No-one listens to me, no-one.

In 1942, Wladek and his family were rounded up for deportation to Treblinka.

Wladek: What are you reading?
Henryk: "If you prick us, do we not bleed? It you tickle us, we we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?"
Wladek, seeing that it is Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. Very appropriate.
Henryk: Yes, that's why I brought it.

Wladek to his sister as they were being away: It's a funny time to say this, but ...
Halina: What?
Wladek: I wish I knew you better.

As they were nearing the cattle cars, the Jewish policeman, Itzak Heller, pulled Wladek out of line, saving his life. But Wladek's family were lost to him. His parents and siblings didn't survive the war.

Wladek was laborer in the ghetto and he helped smuggle weapons for the resistance that was growing.

 He managed to escape the ghetto with the help of various musician friends on the Aryan side. He was taken to different hiding places and safe houses. When Warsaw was destroyed, he had to flee for his life through the ruins, trying to find food and water while weakened from his starvation.

A Nazi finds him in a deserted building where Wladek was hiding. After all he went through, and then a Nazi finds him ... I was hugging my notebook and wailing, "NOOOOO!!" When the German officer who found him, Captain Wilm Hosenfeld, found out Wladek was a pianist, he asked him to play on the piano that was on the ground floor.

Then, something unexpected happened. Captain Hosenfeld showed Wladek a better place to hide and brought him food. He never turned Wladek in. The Nazis fled when the Russians were advancing and Caprain Hosenfeld gave him his coat before he escaped. He asked Wladek what he'd do when the war is over. Wladek said he would return to playing the piano on the Polish radio.

Captain Wilm Hosenfeld: What is your name? So I can listen for you.
Wladek: My name is Szpilman.
Captain Hosenfeld: Szpilman? That is a good name, for a pianist.

The Russians mistook Wladek for a German soldier in the coat and he was almost shot. Edge of your seat moment! AHHH!

He tried to save Hosenfeld after the war, but the captain died in a Soviet POW camp. Wladek returned to his music and lived in Warsaw until his death in 2000 at the age 88.

Will someone please take me to the Warsaw Uprising Museum in Poland? Please and thank you.

Have you ever see The Pianist?



  1. Wow...this is amazing. Definitely want to watch/read it!
    At first, I was reminded a bit of the 1940s movie "Dangerous Moonlight" (it's fictional - about a pianist/flyer in Poland) that has a favorite song of mine, Warsaw Concerto. There's just something so compelling about a musician caught up in war.
    Great review and I'm excited for your book!! :)

    1. Thanks, Mary! I've never heard of Dangerous Moonlight. Is it a good movie?

    2. Agh, I've never seen it; apparently because it was a British film and not overly popular it's kind of hard to find/expensive, so I haven't seen the entire film yet. I've seen bits and snatches on Youtube though, and I like what I've seen!

  2. Holy. Cow. Yes, this is the most intense movie I've ever watched. It was so bad that I had to pause halfway and take a short break. I'm glad I watched it, but not sure that I'll want to watch it again.

    1. It is an intense movie, I agree! I really liked it, though. Have you read the book? I'm hoping to read it soon!

  3. The review was painful to read, I will have to watch the movie now.
    I had a friend who was working on a book set in the ghetto, so I ended up hearing a lot about what went on in there. It was sad!!! I also read a book about three brothers who helped people escape ghettos like that one. Also a sad story.

    1. It is heart wrenching to read/watch what happened in the ghettos. So, so sad. Hope you get a chance to watch this excellent film ... it's very hard to watch, but it's important to know what these people went through.

  4. Thank you so much for reviewing this Emily! I want to read the memoir as well, it's funny because Wladek and I share a birthday (Dec.5th). I thought that was neat....oh gosh I knew his whole family didn't survive it's horrible!!! Do you know how old his brother and sisters were?

    and have you ever watched the movie Hidden in Silence? If not you need to because it's based on Polish resister...a 17 year old girl who hides Jews.....its soil good!

    I'm soo glad you reviewed this...your right perfect timing!!!

    1. No problem! It was perfect timing! And that's SO COOL that you and Wladek share a birthday! I was wondering how old his siblings were too ... I'm hoping it will say in his book.

      Yes, I have watched Hidden in Silence!! It's an amazing story!!

  5. Oh Emily! This was such a good review! I've been meaning to watch The Pianist for a while. Have you ever seen Hidden in Silence? It's based on a true story as well. SO GOOD! You must watch it. I believe the whole thing is on YouTube. Maybe I'll review it sometime. Let me know what you think after you see it. :)

    1. Thanks so much, Jenna! Yes, I watched Hidden in Silence a few years ago! It is sooo good!! I should re-watch it soon. =)

  6. Oh good! I would definitely go to Poland with you btw! We could see the museum at Auschwitz as well. I'd probably carry a box of tissues with me haha.

    1. I think we need to take a WWII tour in Europe someday. There's so much I want to see!

  7. Oh yes that would be wonderful! I'd probably never leave lol. So much writing material there! <3

  8. I started watching this once. It's WAYYY to gruesome for me. :-/