It's been a hard winter, and Rachel and I both wanted to take the Sunday afternoon and see a movie together. We saw that the Polanski film The Pianist has gotten great reviews and Oscar nominations, so we went to a bargain matinee this afternoon.
And walked out of the theater about 40 minutes into the film. It was handsomely mounted, and wonderfully acted. But there is too much heartbreak already in the world right now to give this heartbreaking film the attention it (probably) deserves.
We did not know it was a portrait of the Warsaw Uprising of 1943-44. At least, I think that's where it was going. I just got so tired of anxiously crossing and uncrossing my legs and looking away from the screen. When they dumped an old man in a wheelchair from a third story balcony, that was my cue to stand up and leave.
The protagonist, Spzilman the piano teacher [pictured right, on my blog at http://www.xanga.com/item.asp?user=mfinley&tab=weblogs&uid=12040281], was a young man who strongly resembles my wife's deceased father, Daniel Frazin. And my own son Jon [pictured, left]. That same subtle, intelligent, slightly helpless expression in the face of such abominations.
Rachel has made a pilgrimage to Auschwitz. I have read many accounts of the Holocaust, and spent time at the museum in Washington. We will never know how many European ancestors we lost in the killings. But there is a sense in which we know they were all us.
I am told a good movie is out now about Hitler's secretary, and there is no live action, just a face talking into the camera. That was how Claude Lanzmann's pre-Schindler's List documentary masterpiece Shoah was made as well, as oral history, not as Technicolor adventure.
These movies knew the horrors were already horrible; they did not benefit from milking. In fact, the truths are so wretched that a 10-foot stick is necessary to flip the rock and see what twists and writhes in the suddenness of light.
I'm not saying don't see The Pianist. How could I? I didn't see it. It's probably great.
I'm saying, it hurt me too much to sit through it.