Thursday, June 21, 2012

#675. Schindler's List (1993)

Directed By: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley

Tag line: "Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire"

Trivia:  Steven Spielberg was not paid for this film. He refused to accept a salary citing that it would be "blood money"

As I think back on the events of Schindler’s List, I find it nearly impossible to write a routine analysis of the film. It just doesn’t feel right to assess the movie on a technical level, discussing its marvelous performances or hauntingly effective black and white imagery. Schindler’s List is too powerful to be reduced to a few standard observations. More than the sum of its cinematic achievements, Schindler’s List is an emotion, a reaction, a feeling of dread that forms deep inside and claws its way to the surface.

It’s 1941, and German entrepreneur Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) has traveled to Nazi-controlled Poland to seek his fame and fortune. A smooth talker, Schindler bribes the necessary Nazi officers, and before long receives a lucrative contract to manufacture pots and pans for the German army. To save on labor costs, Schindler employs Jews from the Krakow Ghetto, and even hires Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) to handle the day-to-day operations while he himself womanizes and cozies up to Nazi officials. 

For a time, business is good, with Schindler making more money than he ever dreamed possible. Not even the sudden arrival of Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes), the new commandant and a vicious, murdering thug, can stop the cash from pouring in. 

But Schindler can't hide from his own conscience, which gets the better of him when he witnesses the atrocities committed by Goeth and his troops against those huddled into the Ghetto. With his eyes suddenly opened to the brutality of the regime that pays him, business becomes a secondary concern for Schindler, who teams up with Stern to save as many Jews as possible from the Nazi's “final solution”.

My initial experience with Schindler’s List opened my eyes. For most of my life, I knew very little about the cruelties and atrocities committed during World War II, that knowledge going no further than the page or two mention it received in a school textbook.  With Schindler’s List, Spielberg provided a fresh perspective, but more than that an intensely disturbing account of this dark moment in history, giving faces to the names and showing the humiliation and suffering these men, women and children were forced to endure. I was beyond shaken; I was devastated, and years later, having seen it numerous times, Schindler's List remains a gut-wrenching motion picture.

It is much more than a movie; it’s an awakening, a window overlooking a tragedy that, for the longest time, I was only too happy to ignore. Now, thanks to this amazing film, the images of these terrible events are forever etched in my mind.


Aaron Wallace said...

Exceptional film. This is the only movie I have ever seen where the audience left the theater silently, lost in their own thoughts. Thanks for including it.

DVD Infatuation said...

Aaron: Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment!

I didn't get a chance to see this one on the big screen, but I can only imagine that's how most audiences would have left the theater. This is a film you need to digest before you can even start discussing it with others.

Thanks again!

Jgesq said...

An overwhelming expedience. This is the picture that won SS the Oscar. A piece of cinema history.

DVD Infatuation said...

@Julian: It is certainly that... overwhelming, and often quite brutal. But definitely a classic.

Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment

James Robert Smith said...

Some years ago I met and spoke to Zbynek Brynych who wrote and directed TRANSPORT FROM PARADISE, a Czech film about the Holocaust. SCHINDLER'S LIST had not been out that long and Brynych was still a little upset that Spielberg had lifted images and sequences that Brynych had shot for his much earlier Holocaust film.

He told me that Spielberg had called him once to say that he'd seen and enjoyed TRANSPORT, but had said nothing about the sequences he'd borrowed for LIST.

The two are very different films. I prefer TRANSPORT FROM PARADISE for a number of reasons. Brynych of course lived it, emerging from an extermination camp as a teenager. One chilling thing he told me about his experiences watching the rise of the Nazi juggernaut was that as he saw it all unfold, he found the power of the Nazi imagery to be "beautiful". That's the word he used to describe it. (He spoke English fluently and knew exactly what he was saying.)