Shooting for the film, with outstanding Polish cinematographer Paweł Edelman behind the camera, began in February of 2001 in Germany and was completed on June 16 in Poland. The filmmakers worked in the streets of the capital, on the right bank of the Vistula River in the district of Praga, as well as within the grounds of the Academy of the General Staff in the town of Rembertów, at the National Philharmonic in Warsaw, and at studios located in outlying districts of the city.
The screenplay of The Pianist, based on the memoirs of Władysław Szpilman, was a collaborative effort by Ronald Harwood and Roman Polanski. American actor Adrien Brody, known for a range of past roles, including a feature role in Spike Lee's Summer of Sam, appears in the title role. Wojciech Kilar composed and arranged music for the film and Allan Starski designed the production. Dialogues in the film are in English.
Władysław Szpilman's memoirs, published in 2001, cover the period of World War II, from September of 1939 to the incursion of the Red Army into Warsaw in January of 1945. Szpilman miraculously avoided deportation from the Warsaw Ghetto to a Nazi death camp. The remaining members of his family, however, met with this tragic fate. After the fall of the Warsaw Uprising, Szpilman hid out in the ruins of the deserted city. He survived, among other reasons, because he was aided by a captain of the German army named Wilm Hosenfeld, who became fascinated with Szpilman's musical talent and showed him a good hiding place in which to wait out the battle for the city and the imminent German withdrawal. Hosenfeld later perished in a Soviet prisoner-of-war camp.
Just before production began on the film, Roman Polański was quoted as saying,
I have for long intended to make a film about the Holocaust. Władysław Szpilman's book was the text that I had been waiting for. The Pianist is a testimony to human endurance in the face of death and pays homage to the power of music and the human will to live. It cuts against many stereotypes and as a story is told without the slightest hint of the lust for revenge.
Roman Polański was born in Paris in 1933 to Polish-Jewish parents. Three years later, his parents moved the family to Kraków. Following the outbreak of World War II, the Polański family was forcibly resettled to the Kraków Ghetto. Polański's mother perished at Auschwitz while his father survived the concentration camp at Mauthausen. Polański himself fled from the Ghetto and lived out the remaining years of the war in a village outside of Kraków.
The film is a British-French-German-Polish co-production, however it represented Poland at the Cannes Film Festival.
- Pianista / The Pianist, Great Britain, France, Germany, Poland, 2002. Directed by: Roman Polański. Screenplay: Ronald Harwood, based on a book by Władysław Szpilman. Cinematography: Paweł Edelman. Music: Wojciech Kilar. Scenography: Allan Starski. Costumes: Anna Biedrzycka-Sheppard. Editing: Hervé de Luze. Featuring: Adrien Brody (Władysław Szpilman), Frank Finlay (Władysław's father), Maureen Lipman (Władysław's mother), Ed Stoppard (Henryk, Władysław's brother), Thomas Kretschmann (Captain Wilm Hosenfeld). Produced by: Robert Benmussa, Timothy Burrill, Gene Gutowski, Roman Polański. Color, 150 min.