Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Schindler's List; war drama, USA, 1993; D: Steven Spielberg, S: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Jonathan Sagall, Caroline Goodall, Embeth Davidtz
Krakow, World War II. All the Jews are gathered in a ghetto by the Nazi party. Oskar Schindler, an industrialist and a member of the Nazi party, bribes the commander of the camp Amon Goeth into giving him numerous Jews to work for his Emylee pot factory for free, even hiring Itzhak Stern as his accountant. He even persuades former Jew tycoons to surrender their business to him for a few pots. Then the ghetto gets evacuated and everyone is put into labour camp Plaszow. Slowly, Schindler starts giving more jobs to Jews, guaranteeing their safety in his factory. In the end, he saves over 1,100 Jews from certain death in Auschwitz.
"Schindler's List" won numerous awards completely justifiably because it is bravura written and directed, the ultimate film about the Holocaust after which every comment or addition is unnecessary. Directing two classics in one year—"Jurassic Park" and this one—Spielberg showed great talent and versatility, since this drama, filmed in black and white, contains an exceptional mix of poetic emotions and dreadful violence, like in the scene where the Nazis carry the body of a little dead girl who has a dress with an (added) red color. Even though the first 20 minutes are slightly too slow and some descriptions of the Germans fall into stereotype, Spielberg showed an unprecedented talent in handling such an issue: scene after scene after scene, he directs everything with a precise point, so that every little detail causes a reaction from the viewers and no scene seems unnecessary despite the running time of three hours.
One of the best examples is the sequence where the Nazi soldiers are evacuating the ghetto and shooting in the building: from far away, the windows of the building are sporadically illuminated here and there from the shootings, and seem almost like little sparks, which all adds to its creepy poetry. The situation in the labour camp, where anyone can get shot for no reason at all, is almost intolerable, and even occasional sweet scenes seem bitter—for the first time in a Spielberg film, nudity and intercourse were explicitly shown—creating a three dimensional image of the horrors of a dictatorship, once again proving that some artists like Spielberg find the biggest inspiration during wartime. It is a very dark, pessimistic and bitter film, yet one cannot make a movie about genocide that is pleasant. Despite the absolutely bleak mood, this is still a story about the wake of hope and morality of the main protagonist in the midst of all the evil. All characters are virtuoso set, from the sadistic Nazi commandant Amon Goeth (brilliant Ralph Fiennes), who has a secret affair with a Jewish woman servant, up to the sole Schindler who is deliberately nontransparent since he was a womanizer and a war profiteer, maybe even an opportunist (one can never know if his change came because he sensed the outcome of the war and the imminent defeat of his regime), but in the end also a humanist with a soft heart. The only big flaw is the finale in color with the real survivors visiting Schindler's grave, yet otherwise this is a masterpiece.