Schindler's List

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Eerie, touching, will haunt me for a long, long time...

Apr 30, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Very moving, quality film crafting

Cons:Adult situations, not for small children

The third of January, 1994 was a quiet cool afternoon as I walked with friends through the grounds of Neuengamme, a concentration camp near Hamburg, Germany. I was very moved by the photographs inside the memorial, heartbroken by the letters written to other family members, and haunted by the ghosts of the many thousands who died there.

As we wandered outside through the grounds which look up at the walls of a prison looming nearby, I saw plaque upon plaque inscribed with the nationalities of the many people who died at this place. There were Americans, Mexicans, Canadians, English, and just about any nation you could name represented here. As we walked across the garden I saw a hideous sculpture of an emaciated human in the rictus of death. It was just then that my dear friend Rainer said, "You know, that Spielberg fellow is making a film about Oskar Schindler." I had to profess my ignorance, never having heard of Schindler. Rainer gave me the story in a nutshell, talking about the Schindler Jews that were saved from all this we had been seeing. I'd not heard about the film yet, but when I returned to the states I started paying attention and went to see the film as soon as it came out.

Liam Neeson acts the part of Oskar Schindler. All through the film he gives the impression of the loyal Nazi, out for personal gain, yet his humanity is alluded to from the beginning and is confirmed without doubt before the end of the film. Schindler is known for saving a large number of Jewish people by claiming them as trained factory workers that are supporting the cause of the Third Reich. He manages to keep the same group of folks with him as he relocates during the war.

The film itself is finely crafted. It is without doubt a work of art and I have no apprehension that history will view it so. There is a single spot of color found in this black and white film -- a little girl in a red coat -- and it provides such tremendous emphasis that one cannot help but be moved when the spot of color is apparent on a wagon load of corpses.

Itzak Stern played by Ben Kingsley is an excellent counterpart to Neeson's Schindler. He is the loyal, yet cynical employee who learns admiration for his Nazi employer. Throughout the film there are situations that threaten Schindler's employees, for example, the trainload of women and children are routed to Auschwitz. Schindler is offered replacement "units" but he perseveres to get back the wives and children of his employees. When a commandant tries to remove the children, Schindler holds up a child and tells him that they are "essential workers" with fingers small enough to polish the inside of shell casings. Later, Schindler tells Stern that if one shell manufactured by Schindler's plant is capable of being fired that he will be most unhappy.

As the war draws to a close, Schindler learns that his Jews are in danger. The Reich grows weaker and paranoid. To keep his people safe, Schindler virtually "buys" them from the Reich. At the movie's end, he berates himself for keeping his car and other personal possessions, because he thinks that he could have gotten more people out. As the war ends, Schindler tells his workers that they are free, and that he must flee as a war criminal. Quite a startling contrast to the beginning of the film where Schindler is a high-roller hobnobbing with Nazi elite.

For me the most touching part was the closing of the film, where the actors accompany the real life people they portrayed in the film as the one-by-one place a stone on Schindler's grave. I've seen this film probably fifteen times and I cry every time I see this part and I'm even misty as I write about it here....

This film is of outstanding quality, both the production of it and the acting found therein. It is well deserving of the many awards that it earned. This is one that should be included in the discerning person's home library.


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