Reviews: The Pianist and Defiance

27 January is Holocaust Memorial Day. Colin Revolting reviews two films set during WW2 that chronicle Jewish resistance

defiance movie

Defiance (2009)

When the Nazis invade Belarus, three Jewish brothers escape into the woods and vow to resist. But as other Jews flee Nazi persecution, the Bielski brothers have to decide if offering sanctuary or resistance is the most crucial task. One brother chooses to continue guerilla style attacks on Nazis and links up with the Russian Red Army despite deep seated anti-Semitism amongst the soldiers. The other brothers develop a communal encampment in the woods, and then they attempt a perilous journey away from Nazis.

Exciting, pacy and action packed but also portraying some of the complexity of Jewish reaction to holocaust, from socialist member of Jewish socialist bund to community elders arguing against resistance. Tuvia, the older brother, declares, “Our revenge is to live.”

The Pianist (2002)

the pianistSet in Warsaw during the second world war, The Pianist tells the harrowing tale of Wladyslaw Szpilman, a brilliant pianist, successful in pre-war Poland. Adrien Brody gives a haunting performance as Szpilman and director Polanski brings his own childhood experience of Warsaw to lend an authentic, unsentimental eye to this powerful account.

As a Polish Jew, Wladyslaw Szpilman experiences all the stages by which the Nazis force the Jewish population into the Warsaw Ghetto. The film vividly depicts the process of how, through a series of rules, restrictions and force, introduced incrementally, the Jewish population are forced towards the Nazis’ deadly Final Solution. Some Poles assist him and some Jews join the special police force supporting the regime. Szpilman narrowly escapes deportation and struggles to survive as the Nazis reduce the Ghetto to rubble around him.

 

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