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Tim's Movie Review of the Day: 'Schindler's List' (1993)

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Tim's Movie Review of the Day: 'Schindler's List' (1993)

Post by Timma1986 on Mon Mar 21, 2011 5:56 pm


One of the greatest films of all time.

Steven Spielberg is a humanist, through and through. His tender view of the value of human life and the emotional output provided by its demise has dominated many of his pictures through the years. If you need proof on what I am talking about, watch films like 'Amistad', 'Saving Private Ryan', and 'The Color Purple'. Indeed, Spielberg's heartwarming embrace of the gift of human life was not truly shown on screen until he confronted the most evil occurence of the past century...the Holocaust. The devotion and emotion that Spielberg put into 'Schindler's List' is reflected in his habits. First of all, he refused to accept a salary for the film, and he now consistently declines to lend his autograph to any merchandise relating to the film, as he believes the story belongs not to him, but to history, and to those who lived through its horrors. However, 'Schindler's List' is not simply an account of all that the minorities in Europe went through. It is the true story of a man who realized the evil of what was going on around him, put aside his selfish pursuits of wealth, and managed to save over 1,100 Jews.

Plot Synopsis (Possible Spoilers Below):

Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) was a man who loved to drink. He was a man who womanized, despite being married. And most of all, he was a man who highly enjoyed the feeling of fitting in with the top crowd. A fact that is not to be ignored throughout the whole story is that he was a member of the Nazi party. The film's second scene not-so-subtly establishes what kind of man Oskar Schindler was. He knew how to bribe. He knew how to con. He knew how to generously appease those around him. However, it was not his heart's deepest desire to simply rise to the utmost importance among the Nazis. No...his goal was wealth...immense riches that would fulfill the most selfish man's dreams, for Oskar Schindler WAS a selfish man. As the events around him concerning the minorities transpires, he thinks not of finding a way to help them. No...he sees it as a bright opportunity. As the Jews lose their rights and businesses, Schindler sees the practical use in cheap labor. So he therefor begins to work on plans to begin a factory that will specialize in enamelware. He manages to employ a Jew named Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) to run this business for him, as his specialty is, in his own words, "not the work, not the work...but the presentation." His payment plan for these Jews...enamelware, as money for them is quickly losing its value, especially after their being rounded up into ghettos. After much persuading, Schindler's factory finally begins to take hold. The money piles in for him. His aspirations of great wealth are finally coming true. However, he seems to remain oblivious to what is happening around him. The Jew labor, on which he so heavily relies, is in danger of disappearing, as Hitler's "Final Solution" is put into effect, and Jews are shipped off to concentration camps. It is then that Oskar Schindler watches from a hillside as Jews are brutally emptied out of the ghettos, an operation run by SS Lieutenant Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes). For what seems like hours, Schindler and his wife simply gaze at the destruction and death that litters the once-hospitable ghetto. It is here that Schindler first begins to comprehend exactly what is going on. The Jews are not to simply be separated from the rest of the world...they are to be removed entirely. While at this point, he does not do much to help, he does begin to take measures against his work force being systematically murdered. Even once all his employees are moved to the labor camp at Krakow, Schindler manages to keep his work force. How much time will pass until Oskar completely abandons all hope of living like a pig in his later years?


The horrors of what happened shall never be forgotten, nor shall the endeavors of Oskar Schindler. Many were not aware of who Schindler was before they saw this film. His story is one that is flawed...and is not the glamorized portrait of a superhero. Schindler was so very selfish. He was greedy. He was not the best of husbands, constantly locking lips (among other body parts) with other women. But is in his ability to change that we must look. And change he did. On the outside, Schindler was still the same old womanizing drinking generous Nazi, but on the inside...a great conflict took place...a question that posed itself to many others during the Holocaust....What is the right thing to do?
Should I follow my superiors and do what is asked of me? Or shall I make a stand against that which is wrong?

I would,in most of my reviews, refrain from spoiling the end of the story. However, this is an exception. The end is widely known, and I will not make any effort to hide it from you. As 'Schindler's List' is a primarily nonfiction story, the ending is not some big twist that you would expect of an M.Night Shyamalan picture. No...most of us know what happens. And for those of you that don't know right from the get-go...you will as the film rolls on. But for right now, the end is not what I shall focus on. It is the means.

Let's first look deeper at the portrayal of the character of Oskar Schindler. As I have said so many times before, he was a selfish man. There can be no denying what his initial intentions were. On the outside, he never changed. He always enjoyed the luxories of fitting in with the top crowd. He enjoyed fine wines. And most highly, he LOVED women. Liam Neeson, who at the time was not so well known as an actor, brilliantly shows off the strengths and weaknesses of Oskar. His considerable height gives the character an endearing physical presence, which can inspire intimidation in some...but also respect. As we watch this character's motivations and intentions change oh-so-subtly throughout this whole ordeal, we come to realize not only a good human being's acknowledgement of right and wrong...but of our ability to do what is right. All through the film, Oskar grows a close bond with Itzhak Stern, the Jew he hires to be his head of operations (and accountant). Initially, Stern seems unable to comprehend how he should feel talking to Schindler (who is a Nazi), whether he should show worshipful respect...or conversational politeness. What starts off on rough footing gradually develops into a mutual respect and understanding that is shared not only with each other, but with the audience as well. Schindler never simply comes out and says, "I have had a change of heart. I want to save these people." It is through his actions that Stern observes the selflessness that begins to manifest itself in so selfish a person as Oskar Schindler.

Even in the world of nonfiction, there is usually a primary antagonist. I would like to refrain from saying that Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) is the archetypical "villain" of the story. However, he does seem to serve as a representation of the Nazi party as a whole. He is a sociopathic man who loves to kill. It is never quite understood if this was simply him showing his contempt for Jews, or if he truly had a deep urge and constant need to take life, no matter what the race. I am more inclined to lean toward the latter. At one point in the film, Schindler, who has noticed the nature of Goeth, attempts to convince Goeth that the real power is not killing a person; it is granting them mercy. So for a couple of hours, Goeth actually takes the advice and simply waves off any disciplinary problems with his labor force. However, his inner nature seems to get the better of him...and he shoots a young boy who was unable to remove the rings from his bathtub. Is this perhaps a message on what truly motivated many of the Nazis (including Hitler himself)? Amon Goeth, as I mentioned, is a combination of all the evils that make a devoted Nazi. But perhaps his most noticeable flaw is his hipocriticism (which could serve as a reference to Adolf Hitler). Though he constantly declares to look upon Jews as nothing more than slime barely worthy of his bullets, he falls in love with one. He beats her. He treats her with disrespect...but under no circumstances would he shoot her. It is in this nature that we find a truth. The racism that littered the minds of so many during that time only went as far as their words.

Steven Spielberg made the decision to shoot this film in black-and-white, as he believed it would really carry us back to that time period. It seems to give the whole film a much more serious tone. Now, you would be wrong to call this is a 100% black-and-white film. The opening, a little girl's dress, and the ending are all shown in color, which perhaps serves as an overwhelming sense of emotion, particularly in the case of the little girl's dress, which has a heavy emphasis placed on it. Just watching her stick out among the crowd in the ghetto, eluding German forces comes off as an emotional spark plug. It is an encouragement to realize the value of just one human life. And we truly care what happens to this little girl. We want her to escape the evils which are destroying her race. For a good awhile, we are simply left with a lingering question. What happened to the girl?

The Holocaust has a way of speaking for itself, and Spielberg knew this very well when he made this film. And even though John Williams' score is brilliantly touching in the right moments, it never sinks to the point of melodramatic tear thievery. The majority of the emotional scenes in this film require no excuse for their impact, and they give none. As I witnessed this film, I felt no need for any music to overlap the murders that were causing such an emotional upstir in me. Instead, this film uses vivid imagery to get its message across. Yes...the actions do speak for themselves, but the way in which they are presented truly render me temporarily depressed. And these tears that are shed for this film do not resemble anything artificial. This is genuine emotion...not your typical sappy Hollywood tearjerker.

Oskar Schindler, through his subtle development of his regard for all human life, may seem like a minor footnote in the big picture. Think about it. 11,000,000 people died as a direct result of the Holocaust. Schindler saved approximately 1,100. That's not even half a percent. However, it is not in the quantity of people that were saved that makes him worthy of praise. No...it was the fact that if he had the ability to save more, he would've. In Neeson's most brilliantly tear-wrenching scene, he breaks down declaring that if he could have sold his watch, it would've saved one more person. His car could've easily grabbed 10 more. He gave up every penny he worked so hard to earn in order to save lives. His legacy lived on in the descendants spawned by the "Schindler Jews". As Stern so happily states to Schindler, "Whoever saves one life...saves the world entire."

In the final scene of the film, color returns to the landscape as we see the real-life "Schindler Jews" walking alongside their movie counterparts. What is their destination? It turns out they are walking toward the grave of Oskar Schindler to each place a stone upon his place of rest (a common Jewish method of honoring the dead). The final person (whose face we do not see) to place his stone is Liam Neeson. We are then subjected to lettered messages across the screen that inform us that 6,000 desendants of the "Schindler Jews" are alive today. It then goes on to tell us that in Poland, there are fewer than 4,000 Jews left alive. This means that in the long run, Schindler managed to ensure the lives of more Jews than an entire country did. And perhaps one of the saddest messages is that Schindler lived on in poverty after the Holocaust. He never had ANY success after the war. While he died with no money, he died a death that was mourned by Jews all across the world. His legacy was more important than his fortune...which Schindler acknowledged.

Final Consensus: One of the most emotionally-wrenching films of all time, 'Schindler's List' is a near-divine portrait of a savior who came in the form of a flawed person in the company of the Nazi Party and saw the Jews as people instead of objects.

4/4 Stars
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Re: Tim's Movie Review of the Day: 'Schindler's List' (1993)

Post by ZIMMER1994 on Mon Mar 21, 2011 6:35 pm

I just couldn't help but laugh at the fact that all those people were, in truth, saved by a "money grubbing jew." They were saved by crooked accounting lol... I have nothing wrong with Jewish people, but I just thought it was funny and played into racial stereotypes. Very Happy
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Re: Tim's Movie Review of the Day: 'Schindler's List' (1993)

Post by Timma1986 on Mon Mar 21, 2011 7:24 pm

If I am correct in assuming that you are talking about Schindler himself, I don't believe you are correct in saying that he was a Jew. However, I won't debate the subject, for even if he was, it doesn't matter. What matters is what he did.

Even if he was a Jew, money mattered to him more than his own people did (in the hypothetical scenario that he was a Jew). It was more important and notable that he actually did something about it. He changed. He realized the value of human life...and whether or not he was a Jew does not change that.

Please correct me if I have completely misinterpreted what you said.
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