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Diamond, D. (2007). Passion for Survival in Polanski's The Pianist. Psychoanal. Inq., 27(4):425-439.

(2007). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 27(4):425-439

Passion for Survival in Polanski's The Pianist

Diana Diamond, Ph.D.

In the Pianist, Roman Polanski Illuminates the Traumas and Triumphs inherent in Holocaust survival through his cinematic portrayal of the survival of one man—Wladyslaw Szpilman, a renowned concert pianist, composer, and star performer of Polish radio, and one of 20 out of 360,000 Jews who survived the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. Szpilman's relentless quest to survive encompassed an unyielding struggle not only to endure physically, but also to preserve his dignity and unique identity as a musician and to sustain his belief in the authentic responsiveness of others, particularly the community of Polish (non-Jewish) musicians and resistance fighters, and even the Nazi who ultimately saved him.

Szpilman documented his struggle for survival in a memoir written immediately after the war, but it took Polanski's film—with its juxtaposition of music and words, sound and silence, image and dialogue—to capture the soul of Szpilman's saga of survival. Polanski, as a child, escaped from the Krakow ghetto at the age of 8 and spent the war years in flight.

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