My Saturday Music: The Pianist – Chopin’s Ballade no. 1 in G Minor op. 23

I watched The Pianist either shortly before or shortly after Adrien Brody and Roman Polanski had won at the Oscars. A few years later, in 2004, I watched the film on the big screen during the U.K.-wide retrospective of Polanski’s work that was then visiting Manchester’s Cornerhouse. The scene in the video is one of the most poignant in the story and in the film. Regarding the story, this is a dim in colour and sound, yet emotionally vibrant music which many themes seem to highlight the experience of a man’s and his spiritual survival in the war-ridden country. Chopin composed this Ballade during his early years in Paris in 1835-1836, and its structure and time signature seemed controversial, or deviated from Chopin’s other works. Performed in the cold, empty room, at the request of a Nazi officer, this music becomes the symbol of victory of Art that supports man’s spirit through all hardships.

As for the film, Brody’s performance reaches its pinnacle here. One cannot help thinking, though, that in order to bring out the best in ourselves we should aim to find the means to work with the best, prolific, demanding people out there. When Polanski received his Oscar as the director, he did so also as someone who made a young actor take his skill to a level that probably well exceeded the actor’s experience. Thankfully for Brody, he was ready to take the challenge.

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