on 24 November 2007
Thomas Keneally's bestselling book was made into a movie of awesome power and emotional impact. Oskar Schindler was a Catholic war profiteer during World War II. He initially prospered because he went along with the Nazi regime and did not challenge it. But Schindler ultimately saved the lives of more than 1,000 Polish Jews by giving them jobs in his factory, which turned out crockery for the German army. Schindler lost his wealth, but gained salvation for many lives and the descendants that would spring from those lives.
Like Raging Bull and Rumblefish, this film is shot in black and white which accentuates the impact whenever there is the odd colour scene as in the end with the girl in the red coat after liberation of the prisoners. Despite the movie's considerable length, it is never slow or dull. It is hard to believe that Hollywood, which so often churns out mindless drivel aimed at making money, could produce something so important and powerful as this film.
Much credit is due to the three main actors -- Liam Neeson as Schindler, Ben Kingsley as his Jewish accountant (and, on occasion, Schindler's conscience), and Ralph Fiennes as the frightening Nazi commandant. The film won seven Oscars, but its best accomplishment may be reminding us that we must never forget what happened.
on 12 March 2004
Even though Steven Spielberg had made some of the most successful -- and profitable -- films in movie history (E.T.: The Extraterrestrial, Jaws, the Indiana Jones series), he was always perceived as a master craftsman but never as a "serious" director capable of making a grown-up film. This is an odd perception, considering that in addition to such crowd-pleasers as Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. (along with the plethora of projects he has been involved with as executive producer -- Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and the Back to the Future trilogy), Spielberg had directed such serious fare as 1985's The Color Purple and 1987's Empire of the Sun, which deal with such weighty topics as race and the effect of war on children.
One film, released in late 1993 -- the same year that Jurassic Park set worldwide box office records -- changed that perception forever: Schindler's List.
Based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a German philanderer, member of the Nazi Party, and war profiteer whose desire to make money from Hitler's European war slowly but irrevocably morphed into a desire to save over a thousand of his Jewish labor force from the Nazis' genocidal "Final Solution," Schindler's List is a powerfully moving film. It not only never flinches from the inhumanity of Hitler's willing executioners -- there are all sorts of terrible things going on in here, including torture, manhunts, mass executions, and random acts of cruelty -- but it also touches on the central belief felt by Spielberg himself that decency and righteousness can triumph over even the most implacable tyranny and hatred.
Working from Steven Zaillian's adaptation of the fact-based novel by Thomas Kenneally, Spielberg chose to film Schindler's List in black and white because most of the documentaries, records and photographs he had seen were in black and white. As a result, whenever he does use color, especially in the key "Special Aktion" sequences where Schindler (Star Wars: Episode I's Liam Neeson) catches a glimpse of a single scarlet-clad girl as the Jews of the Krakow Ghetto are ruthlessly rounded up by SS troops. Spielberg draws the audience's -- and Schindler's -- attention on this single little girl by inserting the coat's red color into the otherwise stark shades of gray, black and white that dominate the film (which is the most expensive black and white movie made, displacing Darryl F. Zanuck's 1962 war classic The Longest Day).
Spielberg also chose to shoot Schindler's List on location in Krakow, Poland, where most of the movie takes place, painstakingly recreating the look and atmosphere of the period. A full scale set of Plaszow Labor Camp was built near the site of the real one from existing maps and blueprints, and a few scenes were filmed outside the infamous Auschwitz death camp.
Neeson's top notch performance is matched by those of Ralph Fiennes (SS Commandant Amon Goeth), Ben Kingsley (Itzhak Stern), and Caroline Goodall (as Schindler's long-suffering wife Emile), as well as Jonathan Sagalle and Embeth Davidtz. Fiennes in particular is outstanding as the homicidal and capricious SS commandant of the Plaszow labor camp, who thought nothing of picking up a rifle and using unwitting and unfortunate inmates for morning target practice.
Schindler's List won popular and critical acclaim, winning seven Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director, Music (by long-time collaborator John Williams), Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, and Art Direction. It is not only a fine example of filmmaking at its best, but it also serves as a memorial to the six million victims of the Holocaust, as well as a tribute to a flawed but righteous man who gave up his fortune and risked his life to save a handful of his fellow human beings from history's greatest criminal act.
The DVD presents Spielberg's 196 minute masterpiece on one double-sided disc in a digitally enhanced widescreen picture and 5.1 digital sound. The audio and video content are excellent, although fans of extra features may bemoan the lack of "the making of" behind-the-scenes featurettes present in other Spielberg-directed movies on DVD. Instead, there are the dicumentaries "Voices From the List" and "The Shoah Foundation Story."
Nevertheless, the recently-released Universal Studios Home Video DVD is a worthy addition to any serious film lover's collection.
Important note - this review is of the boxed set contents for this limited edition release of Schindler's List and not for the film itself, which is an absolutely essential buy.
The boxed set really adds nothing to the standard release of Schindler's List on DVD, which is beautifully packaged and has some interesting extras. On top of this standard release you also get:
Soundtrack of the CD - John Williams' excellent score is strong enough to be listened to aside from the film but can be found separately and doesn't justify the additional cost.
A book containing stills from the movie - whilst the book is beautifully produced and the stills are evocative, the question has to be - what is the point? The images within the book mean far more as part of the movie itself. A more sensible approach would surely have been to produce a book containing real documentary evidence of the Holocaust.
A "limited edition" stenotype of a scene from the film - one of Universal's favourite extras in their limited edition DVD releases. Everybody gets the same film still, and the number on the back of mine was 188843, which suggests the limited edition isn't particularly limited. This sort of thing only has any value if it is genuinely scarce.
A "certificate of authenticity" - somewhat tackily containing a quote from Roger Ebert about the film, moderate quality printing on thin paper. Very cheap indeed.
It's a shame that a film as important as Schindler's List receives the same treatment from Universal's marketing department as usual and this boxed set is definitely not worth the extra money that you'll pay over the price of the standard release which, ironically, does show genuine effort having been made to match the product to the quality of the film within.
on 21 April 2004
A perfect edition for a perfect motion picture: I expected no less afterwaiting for such a long time for "Schindler's List" to be released. Sincethe film itself needs no further comments, I would just like to say a fewwords about the DVD editions.
The Limited Edition Box contains about75% air - the size of the box is apparently meant to justify its price, asthe contents itself is no larger than the DVD box itself. The bookcontains mostly stills from the movie, the soundtrack comes in anunimpressive cardboard sleeve, and the "senitype" is - don't be fooled -of course NOT an actual piece of film (it just looks like it). So, youhave to decide whether you want to go with the standard edition or pay thebalance and get the Limited Edition with its "limited" added value.
In the list of major films that Spielberg has made this is the one above all others that everyone should see.
Its the true story of Oscar Schindler, a paid up member of the Nazi party who saved the lives of around 1,100 Jews in WW2.
Liam Neeson plays Schindler brilliantly, but the whole cast are excellent. It would be unfair to pick out any one person, such as Neeson, since for example Ralph Fiennes is also brilliant as a ruthless camp commandant. I've seen the film 3 or 4 times now and its one of the few films that has brought me close to tears, as true horror of the Holocaust is brought to life.
What Schindler did shows a side of humanity that most of us will never see. At great personal risk, because he realised that people were being slaughtered, he bribed Nazi officials and ensured in the process that his factory never produced anything useful for the Nazi's. Scene after haunting scene is left etched on your memory. Perhaps for me, where Schindler hoses down the people who are packed into the trains in unbearable heat sums up the whole movie for me. He needn't of helped them, they were going to die anyway, but he did. We all know about mans inhumanity to man, but here is a demonstration of one mans great humanity. So whilst the film is very sad and emotional on one level, because of Schindlers actions the film doesn't leave you in a state of manic depression at the end!
Its a fabulous movie and at 3hours and 7mins it is long, but you will never look at your watch, its that good.
on 18 January 2004
I'm arab and muslim, I've seen a lot of movies, but no movie has effected me deeply as Schindler's List. The movie is an epic, when I've seen it, I stayed shocked for whole day. Some scenes would let you freeze and some others would make you hardly breath.
Spielberg is a great director, always felt he should make something for his people, so when he made this movie he used his experience and skills in every frame, every scene to tell the story in a way would slip deeply inside you and never leaves.
If you're a normal viewer, looking for a great movie you'll be satisfied and completely effected, and if you're a film student you'll find a great material to learn from about film making.
There are many great directors, but the greatest are the ones who have something to tell and use their art to tell it to the world.
on 11 May 2000
Schindler's List: A Review
'Schindler's List' may be set in the Second World War but it isn't yet another gung-ho action 'Saving Private Ryan' type film. In fact, it is a wonderfully crafted documentary style piece, whose moving imagery, technical mastery and understated dialogue combine to deliver a very moving and powerful presentation of the terrible inhuman atrocities of the Holocaust.
Growing up in peacetime, in a relatively liberal country, it is hard to fully understand the horrors and discrimination that happened during the Second World War, but Schindler's List is a film that leaves us in no doubt about the scale of human suffering that occurred. The film concentrates on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a Nazi Polish businessman initially interested only in capitalizing on the circumstances by using cheap Jewish labour from the Ghetto. By the end of the film, he is transformed into a hero who lost his fortune to save over a thousand persecuted Jews and defraud the Nazis.
Liam Neeson is superb as Oskar Schindler. His immense physical stature reflects the importance of the character. He handles the change of character from businessman to humanitarian with great restraint and control so when he finally allows Schindler open emotion at the end the impact is overwhelmingly powerful.
Ben Kingsley gives a brilliant performance as Itzhak Stern, a clever Jewish accountant hired by Schindler to run his factory. Stern uses his position to employ and protect many of his fellow Jews. When Schindler finds out, he is at first disappointed but eventually actively instructs Stern to do the things that he would have frowned upon earlier. Stern recognizes Schindler's humanity and the relationship that grows between them develops subtly. They only really show their feelings when the war ends. The scene where Schindler breaks down in tears at the end because he doesn't think he has done enough and is comforted by Stern is very emotional.
The other key role is that of Ralph Fiennes, as Amonn Goeth, the Nazi in charge of the labour camp. He gives a fine performance as a stupid, brutal and unstable man who personifies the Nazi ideology. He shows no humanity towards the Jews and takes great pleasure in playing God to decide who lives and who dies, such as taking pot shots at the prisoners from his balcony, for fun.
The film would not have been such a success if not for the masterful direction, camerawork and the special effects of individual scenes. Spielberg himself lost relatives in the Holocaust and was intent on educating his audience about what happened and make us question our own views of prejudice by showing how far it can go if we let it. The film is shot in a documentary style, in black and white, with cutting techniques as would have been used at the time in the early forties to make it seem real and true to the period. He also uses actual locations, including Schindler's factory and the gates of Auschwitz, to make it look authentic. There are some very poignant moments of camerawork such as when he picks out a little girl in a red dress, one of the few bits of colour in the film. The first time we see her she is running away from the soldiers to hide, the second she is being burned at Chujowa Gorge. Spielberg clearly wants us to remember these shots. The technique speaks more eloquently than any dialogue could about how even the young and innocent were not spared.
Some plaudits must go to both Steven Zallian, who spent ten years writing the script, and got an Oscar for it, and Anna Biedrzycka, who outfitted not just the stars, but thirty thousand extras as well. (That's a lot of washing!)
There are several scenes of massacre and confusion that involve thousands of extras in the foreground, mid-ground and in our peripheral vision. These are some of the most convincing scenes of mass pandemonium and terror ever filmed. They were achieved by sending in the actors with spoken lines and a few hidden hand held cameras into the melee so the extras didn't know they were being filmed and didn't feel as if they were under pressure. The effect of all this is powerful. By allowing the audience to observe the horrors, the evil of the Holocaust really comes alive. This is a departure from Spielberg's usual style of melodrama and special effects for box office pay offs, such as his other hit of the year, 'Jurassic Park.' His personal passion for the subject shows in a restrained and sincere way.
All films are entertainment, but it would be hard to describe this film in those terms. It certainly has all the components of a great film. The acting, direction, camera work and composition are absorbing. It certainly gripped me for the entire three and a quarter hours. But, the subject is such an overwhelming one that it would be better to describe it as a historical document depicted in an entertaining way.
It is down to Spielberg's genius that he found a way of conveying his message of persecution and inhumanity to a popular audience. The film is one that every young person should see.
Tom Newton - Lewis 14 England
on 16 February 2008
After his many commercial blockbusters, it may have seemed odd that Steven Spielberg would turn his Midas-touching hand to something as 'serious' as Thomas Keneally's non-fiction novel 'Schindler's Ark' (1982). Amazingly, Spielberg started working on it before JURASSIC PARK had even been completed, and edited both simultaneously using a Warsaw TV station and a satellite link. Some artistic licence was taken, though; both Ben Kingsley's character `Itzhak Stern' and his actions were actually a composite of three men: Itzhak Stern (Schindler's accountant), Mietek Pemper (Amon Göth's stenographer) and Abraham Bankier (DEF's manager) - these latter two are not mentioned at all in the film - whilst the mercurial Marcel Goldberg (Göth/Plaszow's personnel clerk) was the one who actually drew up The List.
Both effort to the highest production values and attention to even the minutest detail in the making of this film were - and still are - impressive. Being shot in harsh but crisp black & white lent a noirish 'docudrama' effect. Cloying sentiment is deliberately absent, save for Itzhak Perlman's mournful violin and `Red Genia;' alone and bewildered, running around aimlessly during the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto, she is there to tug at the viewer's heartstrings ... and does so successfully. Both the portrayal and 'quality' of the gunshot executions is uncomfortably brutal and realistic (eg. Diana Reiter, the female University of Lublin engineering graduate). SCHINDLER'S LIST was filmed entirely in Poland. Dialogue coaches were brought in to get the pronunciation and syntax of various central and eastern European accents exactly right - both those of the former Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans living in enclaves abroad) and of the Axis partners alike. Like John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) said in the dinosaur movie, "Spared no expense ..."
The film was not without controversy, of course. The Muslim world refused to allow its screening - Malaysia initially gave it a release, then withdrew that after 'suggestions' from brethren Muslims elsewhere. And of course the neo-Nazis, career-Revisionists and standard-issue anti-Semites regarded it as science-fiction anyway. Even in the Western world there were those who felt that using emaciated Croatians recently released from Serb 'concentration-camps' as nude extras for the degrading scenes of running around Plaszow camp ... was pushing the bounds of good taste.
I saw this film on a rainy afternoon in the once-great ABC cinema in Norwich, several weeks after release when the mad rush had subsided. There were only ca. fifty people in the auditorium, spread out. During some of the more horrific scenes (such as Amon Göth's potshots off the balcony [in reality he did so from a nearby hill] and his farcical 'execution' of rabbi Levartov [the hinge-maker] ... clearly, Göth rarely bothered to maintain his pistol's serviceability) one was able to observe other viewers' reactions. With the exception of one lady a few rows in front of me, it was the stoïc resignation (or so it appeared in the gloom) of a consumerist society inured to cinematic violence and brutality. But this one lady flinched with every gunshot, gasped at every callous act, and wept openly during the final rock-laying tribute. Unusually sensitive? Perhaps reliving personal experiences? Actually, I quietly applauded her ... for not losing her humanity, nor her ability to be shocked by scenes however well-filmed, and for Feeling Something.
SCHINDLER'S LIST is about the Krakow Jews, but is a simile for what was happening throughout Nazi-occupied Europe. The barbarity of the Endlösung - the scenes of the piles of chalked suitcases, stacks of shoes, shelves of precious metal ornaments and jewelled trinkets, and boxes of extracted gold teeth - reminds us of the large-scale organized theft of property as well as the deliberate, state-sponsored theft of Life (there were even efforts to use human body oils to produce ersatz soap, but manufacture thereof proved to be "un-economic"). Particularly harrowing - for us, the audience - is the frightful anticipation when the anguished and terrified women, misrouted to Auschwitz instead of to Brünnlitz, are shorn of their hair, have to strip naked and crowd into a shower-room ... but instead of the expected Zyklon-B ... it is a shower. Less fortunate are a column of others, entering a building above which towers a large chimney belching smoke ...
It is unfair to hold the excesses of the Second World War (and there were so many) against the German people. The vast majority of Germans, reeling from humiliation at Versailles and utter impoverishment following the 1923 and 1929 economic crises, were mesmerized by dazzling promises of progress into a never-never land of perceived achievement(s), to the extent that the 'downside' - never mentioned by Goebbels' all-pervasive Ministry of Propaganda & Public Enlightenment until Russian artillery was pulverizing Berlin - was overlooked. And the most inhuman Germans were not alone in their anti-Semitism: auxiliaries from the Ukraine, Belorussia, Lithuania and Latvia - and even Poles (eg. the hatred in the little Polish girl's cries, "Goodbye Jews ... Goodbye Jews ...") - often outdid German SS guards in reaching indescribable depths of sickening cruelty and sadism at such generally-unknown places as Vilnius Fort No. 9, Ponary and Maly Trostinets. An entire people are never evil ... only individuals are evil.
Could it happen again? Well, as long as there are Human Beings on the planet ... yes. Unfortunately, ignorance, intolerance, bigotry and spite are very much human traits. L.P. Hartley said, "The past is another country, they do things differently there," whilst Hegel reminds us that, "He who does not learn from the past is doomed to repeat it." For there have been several such repeats since 1945: Pakistan-India, Tibet, Zaïre, Vietnam, Cambodia, Moçambique, Kurdistan, Eritrea, Somalia, Burma, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Rwanda, East-Timor, Kossovo, Israel/Palestine, western Sudan ...
on 2 March 2004
This is one of those films that I have been waiting for on DVD. In my eyes it is one of, if not the best film by Steven Spielberg. Depicting the story of one Oscar Schindler during WW2, who daringly crashes a German officers/movers evening of pleasure in order to make all the right friends for his business plans. He initially seeks to use the Jewish minority as cheap/non paid labour however this changes. As the war progresses, and Schindler learns what was happening to the Jews, he does all he feels he can do in his power to protect his work force and many others. He is hailed as a hero, however still felt that he did not do enough to help them.
With a great director, great actors and great story this is one of the films that stays with you. The use of black and white (a sometimes unpopular and off putting medium to some viewers) was both brave and genius. It makes a scene, where Schindler see's a little girl in a red coat lost in amongst the chaos of the Nazi war machine, very moving and enduring. This film deserved all the awards and nominations it recieved as in my lowly opinion it is a must own film and essential viewing.
on 9 April 2013
Firstly... If you haven't seen the film, this is going to be a huge treat for your first time seeing it. The film itself is so moving, powerful, superbly cast and even very darkly humorous throughout.
I need not go into detail about the story of the film right? Because you want to know what the Blu-Ray transfer is like... Well its like the title to this review states... Brilliant!
Picture: The contrasts between black and whites are what really come into play with this masterpiece. The whole film is on ONE DISC so you needn't worry about having to get up at around 1hr n'40 to change discs such as the superb DVD release from a few years back. The film flows smoothly along at about 20mbps which considering its a 3 hour film means it should look less impressive, but there are no extras on disc one at all, and just a minimal menu... So as for picture quality, it really sets the black and white tones of smoke from the trains at the start and the burning ends of characters cigarettes into a crisp clear showcase.
Presentation: I suggest that you pay the extra £1-2 for the special limited edition book edition as I have, which holds one disc on each side of the case and binds a book built into the spine which separates the two discs and keeps them well encased when not in use. It's sturdy and brittle, so it won't break if dropped (I don't suggest you use it as a frisbee mind you) and the book is very similar to the one included in the DVD special edition, but with differing illustrations and as I don't have a photographic memory OR my copy of the DVD anymore, the text may be slightly different too. Its lovely to hold and to look at, and definitely worth the extra bit of money.
Sound: This movie has a John Williams score (as do 99.99999% of Spielbergs movies) and this is brought to life also. You don't really have to question a release from Universal when it comes to sound, but seeing as I do not own an expensive home-cinema sound system, I can tell you that it sounded just fine on my LG 50" Plasma, with its built in speakers. This is usually a good indicator of a well mixed multi-track downsample, but hopefully a reviewer with a better sound system will help me to answer this one more aptly.
All in all: I strongly suggest that if you have the funds, you should purchase Stephen Spielbergs one true piece of epic cinema. I don't mean I dislike his other movies in saying this, I simply mean that this truly is up there with the best films ever made, and if you are wondering if you should upgrade from DVD-Blu-ray with this masterpiece, I would strongly recommend it. Lastly... I don't want to sound corny or holier-than-thou, but I really consider this a genuinely astonishing and important homage to a brilliant man and a VERY brave generation, and my heart goes out to the Jewish people who were so brutally murdered 70-75 years ago.