Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List tells the true story of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a notoriously greedy and materialistic businessman who becomes a humanitarian in the midst of the Nazi regime in German-occupied Poland. Due to the barbarism he has witnessed on his very doorstep, he sees the needs to turn his factory into a home for Jews. Based on the true story, Schindler managed to save over one thousand Jews from being sent to Auschwitz, and we all know how that tale ended for the unfortunate thousands who were killed there.
Many call Schindler’s List pretentious and overrated, but I disagree. It’s one of the best films ever made, up there with Brief Encounter, Casablanca, The Godfather/The Godfather: Part II, Citizen Kane and Psycho. The 1990s was a great decade for cinema, including The Silence of the Lambs becoming the first horror movie to win Best Picture, and then Jurassic Park coming in 1993. Schindler’s List is now another one of those great American films that ticks all the boxes, from acting to cinematography to score (John Williams) to general film aesthetics and so on.
Spielberg is one of the greatest directors to have ever lived, with some of his best working including Jurassic Park, Jaws, Saving Private Ryan, Bridge of Spies and Amistad. Schindler’s List may not be his best film but it’s his most important one, that much is certain. It’s a blend of humanism, brutal horror and an emotional discourse that creates this awfully good take on the Holocaust. Spielberg verily deserved to win Best Director. Shooting the film in black and white adds to the bleakness and the film’s jeremiad. Though, the coat’s colour brings the evilness of Nazism to the forefront.
The black and white photography only adds to the goodness of the acting performances. Liam Neeson (A Monster Calls) as Schindler is otherworldly, and he was denied an acting Oscar for his performance. And Ralph Fiennes (A Bigger Splash) as Amon Goeth is another great performance, and was also denied an acting Oscar, even if it was for a supporting role. Though this film more than made up for it with winning Best Picture and Best Director with Best Original Score (John Williams), those only being three of the seven Oscars it received. A great haul of statues indeed.
We start our little movie with a womanising Neeson. Schindler is a businessman profiting off cheap labour. He’s like most businessmen. He has a taste for good wine, women and money. Yet, the path to success isn’t easy, it’s hard on the body and the mind, as millions of Jews were being killed in a time which is now being talked about as one of the most horrid in the history of humanity. Whilst these Jews were being killed, he profited. And that’s when he has a U-turn decision,giving up his life of wealth to put his neck on the line for his fellow man. And how can’t I not respect that?
George Orwell said “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever” and Spielberg puts this on exhibition. This is necessary watching, based on a true story that cannot be ignored, as it shows one of humanity’s many faces, both in war and in peacetime. Though, I truly think the most memorable parts of the film are bits of colour on the black and white such as the red-robed girl sitting on the black and white images, just before she’s killed by Nazis. The use of colour in a predominantly B/W movie is a fine move, adding anguish to the images.
When you have Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Steven Spielberg, the finished product is the epic masterpiece Schindler’s List. From the cast to the crew to the set, it’s the real deal. This is a great film, but it’s not one I rush to rewatch because of the themes it discusses, not the quality of the fimmaking.
It will leave you feeling both awe-inspired and depressed