Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Schindler's List

Schindler's List, 1993
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Nominated for 12 Oscars, Won 7
Wins Include: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score
Up Against: The Fugitive, In the Name of the Father, The Piano, The Remains of the Day

Wow, once again, it's been a while. I've been pretty busy adjusting to married life and a new job (same company) that I've had little time to watch movies that are of "higher distinction". I'm hoping to get back into this and to post a lot more over the coming weeks. We'll see how this goes! However, my husband and I did find some time to watch Schindler's List (in two parts though!). My husband, who just graduated with his BA in History, knew more about this story than I did. However, we both did enjoy it (or as much as you can 'enjoy' a holocaust movie)

Schindler's List is a story about Oskar Schindler, Polish Jews and the Holocaust. Schindler is a wealthy and successful businessman, womanizer, a German and a member of the Nazi Party. Having moved to the city in order to start a business. Sponsored by the military (after lots of bribes for the SS and Wehrmacht), he builds a factory with the intention of making army supplies. Not knowing much about how to run such a company, he employs Itzhak Stern, a Polish Jew. While in the beginning his intentions are solely to make lots and lots of money, refusing that his company is not a refuge for Jews to work in without danger of being shot or taken to various camps, Schindler slowly begins to change his mind and his heart towards what one man can do, and the difference he can make upon the world.

The story of Schindler is a story I did not know at all coming into this film. As mentioned above, my husband knew more of this story than I did. I knew that it was about a man named Schindler, the holocaust was involved, and Jews being saved and that Ralph Fiennes is in it. So yes, very little. However, going into a movie with absolutely no knowledge or expectations can sometimes be a very good thing. While the narrative was a little less direct and the movie much longer than I had thought maybe it was, I was indeed very pleased with this movie.

One thing that really stuck out was how Spielberg did not shy away from the gruesomeness, the horror and the humiliation of the Holocaust. The digging up of dead Jews and burning them in a pile, while ash falls like snow in the city nearby. Or the Jews having to perform physicals, completely naked, in order to see how should go to the Auschwitz. Small children hiding in toilets, under floor boards, etc. The evil mentality of Amon Goeth (played incredibly by Ralph Fiennes), shooting 25 men in one of the camps, beating his servant girl, and shooting a small boy after "pardoning him". And simply everything the Jews went through. It was as though this was more about the Jews than it was Schindler. This is something I much appreciate about the film. The focus was not on the "good guy" who "saved the Jews", but of everything the Jews went through before a small number (but at the same time a large number) were saved).

Besides how raw and unafraid this movie was, it also looked quite amazing. The lighting especially made it look like this movie was genuinely made decades ago, something from Old Hollywood. The cinematography too, was beautifully (and heartbreakingly) done. The costumes were fantastic. I understand many people in rural Poland sold much of their clothing from back in the 30's and 40's to the film crew in order to make money, so much of it was genuine. As well this movie was cast well. Liam Neeson gave quite a good performance. BUt hardly ever did I think of him as the dad from Taken. Despite the fact that that movie was made 20 years later, Neeson has a 40's look to him that many contemporary stars do not. Neeson gave a great performance, the shining star being the last 15 minutes, right before he flees when the war is almost officially over, and he realizes how much he has, and how much more he could've done. While we all know it was an amazing feat to rescue 1100 Jews from Auschwitz (many of them actually arrived there before Schindler was able to rescue them from there too), Schindler's cries out that his car could've paid for 10 lives, his Nazi button was at least one or two, etc. It breaks your heart to hear him say this after seeing how much the Jews are grateful to Schindler, and knowing how much of a risk he took simply for these 1100, and Stern advising him that he did everything he could.

But it was Ralph Fiennes, to me, who particularly stuck out as brilliant throughout the film. The insanely evil and murderous Amon Goeth, he had a true Old Hollywood look to him that sometimes I almost didn't recognize him. He was fiercely evil, but sometimes you could tell he was confused about what he was doing. You hate his guts, but in moments you felt sad for him. Knowing what a mess he'd gotten himself into, but how evil he really was that he did deserve what he eventually got. And Fiennes played that beautifully.

Overall, I feel this was a very brave film, and no one could have made this film better. Spielberg, a Jew himself, was able to distance himself enough to make an unbiased film and make things absolutely brutal. While it was a great film, it's one I probably won't watch again for a very long time. It was incredibly heavy and emotional, and not the cheeriest subject matter (obviously). This is a film I indeed agree that it was Best Picture worthy, and am glad a film like this was made. 

Acting- 20/20
Directing- 20/20
Writing- 20/20
Personal Enjoyment- 18/20

Overall Package -19/20

Total: 97

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