The next title on the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film as I return to the historical section of the book is Spielberg’s heart-wrenching, anguish filled look at the Holocaust through an adaptation of a true story.
Over the course of three hours, this black and white film, with only significant and poignant uses of colour (that red coat, tears every time) gives an unflinching look at the horrors we inflict on one another.
Shot in an almost documentary style, adding to the realism on display, the film is set in Nazi occupied Poland, as Jews are being forced into ghettos, work camps, and concentration camps. We see the travesty and terror inflicted upon them, as a greedy business man, Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) slowly becomes aware, and involved in saving the lives of his Jewish workforce.
Heartbreaking, horrific, and brutal, Spielberg’s film, deservedly, walked away with Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score.
Using Jews to bring his costs down, he slowly wakens to the inhumane acts that are committed on these people, and with a conscience provided by his book keeper, Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), he is able to save a number of lives.
This was my first introduction to Ralph Fiennes, as SS officer Amon Goeth, and he turns in a powerful performance, one that I think as a person probably haunted him long after he left it behind.
The film makes sure to introduce us to a large cast of supporting characters, faces and people we will come across time and again through the course of the film, allowing the viewer an emotional connection with the events they see on screen.
It doesn’t take long for this movie to wreck me – it’s so honest and brutal in its portrayal of these events, all of them taken from documented occurrences. The camera doesn’t blink, forces you to watch every indignity, every horror, every wound, every murder, so many murders.
Haunting, troubling, and perfectly crafted this is a film that stays with you, long after the credits have rolled, and in fact, has stayed with me since the first time I saw it in 1993.
Watching the film play out, Schindler’s arc, the documentation of of horrific events that so many now are trying to deny ever happened, Schindler’s List remains powerful, an example of a director, cast, and crew, who put it all on the screen for their lives, and their art.
One of the most important films made, this piece of cinema will be a living document to remind us of our past, to warn us away from such horrors again.
A triumph, a classic, and a singular piece of work that has the power to movie viewers to this day.