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The Pianist is one of the best films about the Holocaust and it even won the Palme d’Or award at Cannes Film Festival. And if you are watching the film at the moment you might be wondering, where was The Pianist filmed?
Like Schindler’s List that came before it, The Pianist (2002) is also based on a memoir by a Polish-Jewish musician attempting to evade imprisonment in a concentration camp in WWII. Adrien Brody plays the titular character named Władek Szpilman, and Roman Polanski directs. I, of course, abhor Polanski’s actions and do not support him making any more films. But we cannot rewrite film history. And I do think The Pianist is a great film worth watching if you like WWII dramas.
There are also some fantastic The Pianist filming locations around Poland’s capital city of Warsaw which are very authentic as the action takes place there. However, Polanski shot many of the interiors, some exteriors, and bombing scenes in Studio Babelsberg in Berlin. This guide is not as detailed as I would like as there isn’t a lot of information about the locations out there. But I’ve done my best! So, let’s see what filming locations I have managed to source.
Where Was The Pianist Filmed?
The Pianist Filming Locations in Poland
1. Krakowskie Przedmieście, Warsaw
After celebrating Great Britain and France joining the war against the Nazis, Henryk, Władek, and their father witness German soldiers marching through the streets. Specifically, they march down Krakowskie Przedmieście in Warsaw. The Szpilman men watch the march while stood next to the Staszic Palace.
2. Kozia, Warsaw
After Władek loses his job at Polish Radio due to a bombing, he calls up his pal Jurek so he can ask out his sister Dorota (Emilia Fox). They both walk down Kozia in Warsaw, Poland not far from the Wesslow Palace and is the next The Pianist film location. You can see the white bridge in the background. The Paradiso Cafe they attempt to visit has that has a “no Jews” sign outside? It’s on Trębacka but it looks like a Caffe Nero.
3. Stalowa, Warsaw
It’s December 1939 and the Nazis have instructed Jewish people in Warsaw that they must wear the Star of David whilst out of doors. Władek’s father walks down Stalowa (near N.10) and an SS officer slaps him for forgetting to bow and for walking on the pavement. This is a sizeable, main street with tram lines so it’s no wonder it appears again and again as a The Pianist filming location throughout.
We see it just a few scenes later when the Polish Jews move to the Warsaw Ghetto. Władek chats to a distraught Dorota standing at the side of the road.
Later in the film, the bridge across Chłodna known as the Bridge of Sighs is near where the production team located the gates, too. Henryk collapses of hunger on this bridge and Władek crosses this bridge when the title card ’15 March 1942′ appears onscreen.
4. Konopacka, Warsaw
With the help of some CGI to add more bombed-out buildings, Konopacka (near N.10) stands in for a street on the edge of the new Warsaw Ghetto. The Nazis built the new wall along this street and you can clearly see the building with the corner windows and balconies in the background. The buildings to the left (and perhaps even the wall) are computer-generated.
This same location stands in for the scene where Henryk and Władek line up at the wired gate with the other Jews as a tram crosses their path. Henryk tells an older gentleman that the Nazis are building a bridge for them. It’s at the corner of Konopacka and Stalowa, which is the road the tram rides along.
5. Saski Hotel, Warsaw
Władek tells the hostile family friend that offers jobs as Jewish policemen to him and his brother that he has another job. That job is as a pianist (duh) at Capri Cafe. In reality, the interior of this cafe is actually a hotel and it is Saski Hotel in Warsaw. Polanski transformed the entire downstairs into a thriving 1940s jaunt and it is one of the most notable The Pianist film locations. Weirdly, it doesn’t seem as if it’s an actual hotel anymore despite the name implying that it is. I believe it is a building with a courtyard full of restaurants and shops.
6. Mała, Warsaw
After work, Władek visits a pal in a poorer part of the Jewish ghetto to ask if there is anything he can do in the resistance movement. He starts walking home just before curfew when he spots a small boy trying to crawl through the wall separating the ghetto from the rest of Warsaw with his stash of smuggled goods. The street with the wall cutting through it is Mała in Warsaw. Part of the street looks modern, but most of it is decades old and looks quite run down which is perfect to stand in as the Jewish ghetto.
Around one hour into the film, the Jewish policeman saves Władek’s life by removing him from the crowd heading onto the train to Treblinka extermination camp at Umschlagplatz. He walks back through this street as he weeps due to the devastation around him and the loss of his family. The few, remaining Jewish people in the ghetto also have to line up on this street and walk through the wooden gates as the Nazis put them to work.
7. Rakowska, Warsaw
Annoyingly, my research lists two The Pianist locations as the place where Polanski shot the Umschlagplatz scenes. The term refers to the large squares where the Nazis held Jews before they transported them to various camps. The first location is Rakowska in Warsaw. Today, the area is full of demolished buildings and new apartment blocks and it makes complete sense to me that Polanski shot the scenes here. Looking at the place in the present day, you can see the similarities. But since the original buildings don’t exist anymore, it’s difficult to be sure where was The Pianist filmed in regards to this scene.
8. National Defence Academy, Rembertów, Warsaw
The second possible The Pianist location where the Szpilman family wait with hundreds, if not thousands, of other Jewish people before their transportation is the National Defence Academy (Akademia Obrony Narodowej) complex in Rembertów, Warsaw. Maybe they shot the train sequences here and the crowd scenes in Rakowska? If you know the correct locations, do let me know!
9. National Philharmonic, Warsaw
After the Allied forces overthrow the Nazis and win WWII, Władek heads back to playing the piano on Polish Radio. In the very last scene, he is playing piano with the National Polish Philharmonic Orchestra in front of a hypnotised crowd at the National Philharmonic building in Warsaw.
Other The Pianist Filming Locations in Poland
I’ve not fully answered the question of where was The Pianist filmed in Poland. There are a few other filming locations that I cannot match to scenes. It’s difficult because so much of the destruction is computer-generated. Polanski shot much of the film on studio sets, too. But I didn’t want to not include these potential locations purely because I couldn’t match them with a scene! If you have any info, as always, I would greatly appreciate it.
The other supposed filming locations are Ząbkowska and the Norblin Factory in Warsaw and the village of Kobyłka.
The Pianist Filming Locations in Germany
10. Beelitz-Heilstätten Soviet Military Hospital, Beelitz, Brandenburg
So, where was The Pianist filmed in Germany? Yep, as well as the studio sets, Polanski shot some scenes on location in Germany as well as Poland. My research tells me that the abandoned Soviet Military Hospital in Beelitz, Brandenburg stood in as the Warsaw Hospital that the Nazis fire flame throwers at. Just the interior though, which Władek enters to find shelter when the Nazis fire flamethrowers at virtually every building in Warsaw and decimate the city.
Other The Pianist Filming Locations in Germany
Apparently, a place called Jüterbog appeared somewhere in The Pianist. And, a house in Potsdam stood in as the destroyed mansion where SS Officer Hosenfeld lets Władek stay after he catches him trying to open a can of pickles towards the end of the film. But I can’t be more specific than that! Wow, what a lukewarm rundown of locations to end this post on.
So, where was The Pianist filmed in Poland and Germany? Hopefully, this post gave you (some of) the answers! Have you watched the movie or visited any of the filming locations? Let me know in the comments below!
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