The Pianist surprises us with history. We know going in that everything portrayed here actually happened during the German occupation of Poland, but the movie’s litany of horrors still manages to catch us unawares. Based on the memoirs of Jewish pianist
Wladyslaw Szpilman (a muted, mesmerizing Adrien Brody), the movie traces one man’s evasion of the Nazis’ gradual, sinister extermination efforts. Director and death-camp survivor Roman Polanski makes The Pianist a historical witness, reminding us how the awful past became possible.