Movie Name: Schindler’s List
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes
Genre: Historical Drama
IMDB Rating: 8.9/10
Schindler’s List (1993)
Schindler’s List is a film that will leave you disturbed for days after it ends. It’s haunting, it’s a film which makes you think, and it has all the ingredients of a Steven Spielberg classic. Themes arising out of World War II are Steven Spielberg’s forte. The director has himself admitted that for him World War II holds a special place.
This film is based on the massacre and suffering of Jews during the Holocaust and how a German businessman Oskar Schindler saves them by employing them in his factories. The film is in black and white colour gradient except for its start and end. This gives a special original feel to the film and sends us as viewers in that era. We see the contrast in the lives of Germans and the Jews. At one hand German soldiers are hungry for wealth, power, wine, women, food and prestige. On the other hand, we have Jews whose life is uncertain and who proclaim that maybe it was their worst suffering and it will get better. Their self worth has been shattered and they are treated worse than animals. Their only hope is working in Oskar Schindler’s factories where they will get better treatment. Oskar Schindler is also no hero and is not much different than those German soldiers. He hires Jews as they cost less and he uses them so he can keep on becoming richer. But, then he slowly becomes more sympathetic, mainly due to his manager Itzhak Stern who himself is a Jew. And then some chilling scenes force our protagonist to be the saviour of these Jews at every cost.
The thing that stands out in the film for me is especially the visuals. Thousands of naked Jew men and women being checked if they should die, or be used to help the German war effort. The visuals we see of Jews’ inhumane suffering make this film a visual masterpiece. The contrast created by the director is visible when the centre of attention of Schindler’s eyes- in a thousand Jews, a little girl in a red coat also becomes our centre of attention. Music of the film is painful and melancholy.
There are some scenes which highlight the complexity of this theme- a kid chanting “Goodbye Jews”, the trunks of Jews being emptied at the railway station, another kid wearing a German army uniform saving his childhood friend and her mother, or Amon Goth’s brutal beatdown of his maid Helen when he was about to kiss her, which is contrasted with Oskar who kisses a Jew woman.
There is also some ironic dark humour in the film- Amon Goth’s and Oskar’s motivation for power, or Jews talking about their own suffering.
There are many symbols used in the film. The film is in black and white which according to Spielberg represents the Holocaust itself. According to Spielberg, the symbol of life is colour and the Holocaust was life without light. Only two scenes are in colour, which are before the beginning of World War 2 and after it’s ending. There is also a scene in which a girl in a red coat is distinguished from the others. The protagonist, Oskar Schindler gives special attention to her and later in the film he sees her dead. This according to Spielberg, was to show how high officials in the American Government knew that the Holocaust was coming, but still did nothing to stop it. Also, there is the popular theme of good and evil shown by the difference in the behaviours of Oskar Schindler and Amon Goth. It is also shown in their communication, where both of them identify power differently.
Ben Kingsley as Itzhak Stern has given a monumental and moving performance for me. Liam Neeson is charming as Oskar Schindler and Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goth perfectly shows the character’s cruelty and complexity. The whole cast has given such performances- that each and every face is still in my head as I write this article.
This is Steven Spielberg’s masterclass and for me one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen. It gives a multitude of emotions and the music along with the visuals will stay in any one’s heart for a long time.