The winner of the top prize, the coveted Palme d'Or (Best Picture) award, at the 2002 Cannes International Film Festival, The Pianist is 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.