(Yes, this time I write a SERIOUS review of the movie.)
I have seen nearly all of the films in the IMDb’s Top 10; some are indeed great, some I think earn their spot simply for being influencial classics, but Schindler’s List is a whole different story.
This is a film that is difficult to do justice in a review. A film so devastating, so well-made, so superbly acted, so ambitiously directed, so powerful and so full of emotion that it is terribly hard to describe it all in one review. But it is still my duty to try, isn’t it? I can tell you that my first time seeing this and falling in love with it, was one of the most important moments of my life: t’was my transformation into the film snob I am today. I do not regret what the film did to me.
Directed by Steven Spielberg. the movie opens with a Jewish family, lighting candles and singing in Hebrew at their table. As the song eventually ends and the candle goes out, the colours cease to exist and the film becomes monochrome. It then tells the story of Nazi-German businessman Oskar Schindler, portrayed here by Liam Neeson. As we meet him in Kraków, year 1939, shortly after World War II has started, he is enjoying a life of wealth and through a little bit of bribing he aquires a mess kit factory where, as we all most likely are aware, Jews will eventually work. A Jewish man, specifically the pure-hearted Itzak Stern (Ben Kingsley) who acts as Schindler’s silent conscience throughout the film, assists him in getting the business started. Stern tries hard to get as many Jewish people into the factory as possible, even those with faults. One worker, for example, has lost one of his arms.
After some time has passed, the ruthless SS-Untersturmführer Amon Göth (Ralph Fiennes) arrives to Kraków to see to it that the construction of the new concentration camp is finished. When this happens, Göth sets Operation Reinhardt in motion. In one of the film’s greatest scenes, Schindler witnesses the liquidation of the Kraków Ghetto from a nearby hill; not until this moment has he realized the suffering of Jewish people; not until this moment has he exited his bubble of wealth and expensive parties. He sees a little girl in a bright red dress run amongst the ongoing chaos and destruction. For some reason, this little girl stands out among the rest. Why is no one killing her? Why does she run free when there are violent SS-troops surrounding her? Why is her colour bright? Is she trying to tell him something?
Instead of leaving Kraków as he had planned, Schindler bribes Göth with much of his fortune in order to move the factory workers to his home in Moravia, helping them away from The Final Solution. Göth eventually agrees, and Schindler and Stern begin writing a list of people who must not be put on the trains headed for Auschwitz – Schindler’s List. “This list is life”says Stern.
Many scenes are perfect depictions of the horror that reigned upon the Jews during The Holocaust, just as many scenes are scarily believable depictions of the immense malice and malignancy of the Nazi Party. The black-and-white was a brilliant choice on Spielberg’s part as it not only symbolises horror, hopelessness and sadness, but it also perfectly fits the era in which the film takes place – back when moving pictures had no colour. The actors all give munificient performances which, naturally, helps make Schindler’s List feel so real, as do the production designs and the countless extras. Ralph Fiennes is especially great, creating a very despicable yet believeable Göth.
There will be spoilers right here, as Schindler’s List has an ending so phenomenal in its impact that I simply must talk about it: it shows us the many Jews that have survived thanks to Schindler, wandering over a field, headed towards new lives. As the scene eventually transitions into colour, they are walking much slower, wearing more modern-looking clothes and looking a bit aged. In a split second, it hits you right in the gut – those are not the actors. Those are the real Schindler-Jews. An ending in which they all put pebbles on Oskar Schindler’s grave, each accompanied by the actor who played them in the film, is one of the most powerful film scenes in the history of cinema.
Anyone who has read my most of blog will know that I bring up this film a lot, when talking about film criticism. Why is that? It’s very sipmle: it’s because this is one of the best films I have ever seen. Everything in it is just pure magnificense – the direction, the screenplay, the visuals, the score by John Williams, the acting, the cinematography, the imagery and just the way it feels, both in how realistic it is and in how amazingly moving it is and Spielberg uses camera, colour-tricks and superb music to make it all work.
Schindler’s Film is a masterpiece that’s so well-done, so strong, so thought-provoking and so grimly real that it is hard for any filmmaker to match. This is the film that convinced me that Steven Speilberg is one of the greatest film directors to ever walk upon the surface of our planet. His talents are truly something to be desired. It shall forever remain one of my favourite films of all time.
“Whoever saves one life… saves the world entire.” – Itzak Stern, as played by Ben Kingsley.