Music films are lovely to watch, not only because they visualize music in a full cinematic scale but also because they tell the story in a way to transform music from a mere audible medium to a representation of emotional tribulation prevailing in the pivotal eras in history. Chopin’s Grande Polonaise Brillante in E-Flat and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major became something more than single pieces of recording after seeing its power of healing the ravages of the most destructive and deadly conflicts in the 20th century: the WWII and the Cold War.
Roman Polanski and Radu Mihaileanu grasp and interpret a musician’s devotion in a way to capture the predominating senses of desperation, despair, endurance and eventually triumph in the brutal times of the “War”. The main character’s profession as a musician (Szpilman as the Pianist and Filipov as the conductor of Le Concert) is a centric element around which the setting and the plot evolve. When both directors share a deep understanding of the era they are depicting, they adopt different strategies in order to convince the audience with their re-production of history: Polanski relives the real horrors of the Holocaust personally witnessed by Szpilman without dramatizing attempts to abbreviate or exaggerate, contrasting to Mihaileanu’s rather humorous portrayal of Filipov rising from the forcible expulsion under the Soviet Communist Party. The degrees of reality and humor are weighed very differently in the two films that commonly seek to interrogate the past instances of political oppression in order to illuminate the value of today’s free society.
Both films conclude with a triumphant orchestral performance that explode the passion that was forced to be constrained for so long.