Is Music an Integral Part of Every Movie?
Movie: The Pianist

By Sarah Lane
Aug 21, 2006, 06:49 PST

The Pianist

‘Music was his passion. Survival was his masterpiece.’

Grade Level:
9-12, college

History, Music, Current Events

Lesson Plan, Movies in the Classroom, holocaust, attic, based-on-autobiography, based-on-true-story, deportation, execution, fugitive-from-nazi, genocide, gestapo, ghettoization, hiding-place, humiliation, hunger, jaundice, luggage, murder, music, nazi-occupied-poland, nazi, piano-concerto, piano-player, piano, polish-resistance, starvation, tank, underground-resistance, violence, warsaw-ghetto, wheelchair, wwii, 1930s, 1940s, anti-semitism, concert, contraband, freight-train, historical, hospital, jewish, mass-murder, mistaken-identity, musician, pianist, police-brutality, prisoner-of-war, radio-broadcasting, restaurant, rooftop, separation-from-family, wall, war-crime, warsaw-poland, whipping, panzer.

Author: Sarah Lane

Affiliation: ClassBrain, Inc.

Date: 6 May 2003

Duration: 1-4 class periods

Background: Based on a true story. A Polish Jewish musician struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto of World War II. Wladyslaw Szpilman, a brilliant Polish pianist escaped deportation and is forced to live in the heart of the Warsaw Ghetto. As he is hiding in the ruins of the capitol, a German officer comes to his aid and helps him to survive. Wladyslaw Szpilman published Death of a City in 1946 which recounts his experience including life in the ghetto, and how it was for the victims and the torturers. The work was banned by the communist authorities. In 1998 his son Andrzej Szpilman discovered the manuscript of his father’s memoirs which led to a new publication of the work. It was first translated and published in France as The Pianist.

Watch the movie or excerpts from the movie The Pianist (2002). Use the lesson plans to gain a better understanding of the plot and structure of the film. Use the Resources & Materials to complement your lesson plans or to develop unique lesson plans. This film is not recommended for younger viewers.

Lesson Plan - Music

Music is an integral part of every movie. Not only does the soundtrack of a movie set the mood and tone of the piece, but it can evoke strong emotions such as sympathy even for villainous characters. Using the Music from: “The Pianist” page, select an album such as the soundtrack of The Pianist. Select one song that coincides with a particularly emotional part of the movie. (You can do this with any soundtrack, song, and movie that you want.)

Follow these three steps:

Step One: Have your students listen to the song you choose all the way through. Play the song a second time and have the students write about what that song makes them feel. What emotions do they experience while listening? What does it make them think about?

Step Two: Play the excerpt from the film The Pianist that has the same song you played in Step One. Have them watch the film and listen to the music at the same time. Now have them write about the feelings and emotions they experience by listening to the music and watching the film at the same time.

Step Three: Now play that same part of the film with absolutely no sound at all. Have the students watch the scene all the way through in silence. Again, have the students record their emotions and feelings as they watch the film with no sound.

Finally, assign a paper to the students and have them evaluate their feelings and emotions during all three steps in this process. How did their feelings change? Do they agree that music really is an integral part of movies? Why? Did they prove or disprove their answers in the three step process? Have them explain why or why not this activity made them look at, or listen to, movies differently.

Resources & Materials:

Music from: “The Pianist”

Sheet Music: “The Pianist”

Websites for Student Resources

Websites for Teacher Resources

Vocabulary List
If you plan on using the Lesson Plans for younger students, this vocabulary list will be helpful.

Film Facts

Drama, War

Rating: R for violence and brief strong language

Family Rating: kids-in-mind Please visit the "kids-in-mind" website to get a detailed explanation of why this movie is rated "R". This film is not recommended for kids ages 16 and under.

Running Time: 149 minutes

Primary Actors: Adrian Brody (Oscar 2003, Best Male Actor) as Wladyslaw Szpilman, Emilia Fox as Dorota, Thomas Kretschmann as The German Officer, Michal Zebrowski, Ed Stoppard, Maureen Lipman as The Mother, Frank Finlay as The Father.

Director: Roman Polanski

Music: Wojciech Kilar (original), Frederic Chopin (non-original)

Screenplay: Ronald Harwood

Producers: (Primary) Robert Benmussa, (Executive) Timothy Burrill, (Co-Producer) Gene Gutowski

Studio: Focus Features

Related Internet Resources:

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