Letter to the Editor

In response to the Roman Polanski article published on Friday February 28,2003:
Mr. Shawn Wines’ article on Roman Polanski omits what is clearly the most relevant detail in a retrospective that deals significantly with The Pianist, that Mr. Polanski himself escaped a Krakow Ghetto while his parents were sent to a concentration camp. Isn’t this be more relevant information than the details of his sex scandal (to which the writer devotes an entire paragraph)?
What I find inexcusable is the writer’s glaring oversimplification that Mr. Polanski “brings little” to the metaphorical Holocaust offerings table. The Pianist has a “unique angle.” It tells the story of the true events of Wladyslaw Szipilman’s life and therefore is different in its own right. Unlike Schindler’s List, which recreates the gruesome images from concentration camp life, or Life is Beautiful, which deals with the relationship between a father and son during the Holocaust, this film is unique in that it is the survival story of a man in hiding, who watches the horrors unfold from the outside. Moreover, 6 million stories about the Holocaust will never be told. Each and every one of these stories is unique, and when one of them is told with the mastery and craft that Mr. Polanski brings to The Pianist, I fail to see how “this film brings nothing new to the table.” Films bring each and every one of these stories to life, and even the writer would agree that Mr. Polanski does that superbly with The Pianist. More importantly, there is no such thing as “just another Holocaust film,” just as there is not such thing as another slavery film.

– Orly Shuber

Response from Life & Art Film Critic
I feel The Pianist is a fine film, but it’s not Polanski’s best. The visuals and Brody’s stunning performance are the highlights, but it certainly contains flaws.
Polanski chose to tell the story from a certain distance, not letting us become as emotionally invested in the characters as in other dramas. This choice just didn’t work for me.
I also believe that a retrospective should provide information about the filmmaker’s background, as well as his body of work. Polanski’s troubled past is something that defines who he is and how he works, and was deserving of the space it got in the article.

– Shawn Wines, Life & Art Writer

March 7, 2003


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