There are several scenes in the film which show the Szpilman family’s gradual disintegration. When German troops invade Poland and make rapid inroads, the Szpilmans were still hopeful that the foreigners will be soon driven out. But formal Polish resistance to the Nazi advance turns out to be very weak. Within a month Poland surrenders and strict controls were imposed on civilian life. But even during this stage the Szpilmans are very much together. Their major concern at this point is not security but sustenance. While the threat of raids by the secret police makes life edgy, the Szpilmans still have the comfort of the family to keep aloft their spirits.
Even when all Jews are ordered to move to the Jewish ghetto, the family is hopeful of quick military intervention by Britain and France. After the annexation of Poland, the Nazi command had ordained that no Jewish Poles can run businesses or work where they choose. As a result, the Szpilmans were forced to sell off their furniture and other movable wealth to make ends meet. There was one poignant scene, where Wladyslaw Szpilman, the protagonist and the pianist, decides to sell his grand piano at a hefty discount. By this stage, members of the family are starting to show psychological fissures. While they are together as a flock, they are possessed of a sense of paranoia. This sense of heightened security is visually illustrated through the chaos and substandard amenities provided in the Jewish ghetto. Further, the visuals on the street speak of the horrors suffered by other families. The widespread hunger, squalor and death made casual in the ghetto offers an interesting juxtaposition to the unity and hope of the Szpilmans.
The good fortune enjoyed by the Szpilmans eventually runs out and all inhabitants of the ghetto are garrisoned for concentration camps. Only Wladyslaw is fortunate, for he finds an old friend in the German troop who swiftly offers him a chance to escape the ghetto. With the help of another acquaintance from the restaurant where he played piano, Wladyslaw finally breaks out the ghetto. From this point on, no further news of the Szpilman family is narrated in the film. But it is obvious that they were all sent to concentration camps and eventually gassed to death. The fact of our isolated hero is cinematographically represented through the emptied, dilapidated buildings, as well as long stretches of desolate war-ravaged streets.
Toward the latter half of the movie, the focus remains solely on Wladyslaw and his quest for survival. Although he is all on his own, the ghost of his family continues to remain with him. This is evident in his long blank gazes out the windows, as well as the emaciation of his physical condition. When Wladyslaw is finally struck down by a bout of Jaundice, the acuteness of his separation from family comes to full glow. One cannot help feel that the blessings and good wishes of his family continue to save Wladyslaw from many crises. Indeed, there were many near misses on his life, including the surprise encounter with the last of German officers in the quarters outside the ghetto. The other precarious moment comes when the victorious Russian troops mistake him for a Nazi officer based on the German greatcoat he was wearing.