88 of 94 people found the following review helpful
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.
44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2014
WWII and The Holocaust were events of mind bending statistics and proportions. Tens of thousands dead in single bombing raids, 20+ million Soviets dead, 15+ million Chinese dead, 6+ million Poles dead, 7+ million Germans dead, 11 million the victim of Nazi genocide – it just beggars belief. The European and Pacific theatres were so dreadful, so massive, that it’s impossible for one to fully process it emotionally.
Schindler’s List is one of the finest cinematic depictions of those dark years; a sweeping, brutal film that brings a remarkable story to the attention of millions of viewers. However, as with all historical films, it does not serve as the definitive source of information.
The film follows Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a Sudeten German businessman who reaped the benefits of slave labour during WWII. With his imposing presence and magnetism, he charms his way through Nazi circles, soon operating an enamelware factory in Kraków, Poland using Jewish labour. At this point Schindler appears largely indifferent to the persecution all around him, or rather he avoids confronting the ugly truth of the Nazi’s approaching final solution.
He eventually becomes acquainted with perhaps the most memorable character of the film Amon Göth, the callously evil commandant of the Płaszów concentration camp who is performed excellently by Ralph Fiennes. Göth was an incredibly violent man, the extent of his crimes were such that his sentencing was phrased as following: ‘Amon Göth himself killed, maimed and tortured a substantial, albeit unidentified, number of people.’ Göth’s violence isn’t sugarcoated in the film, he shoots dozens of defenceless people and never shows even a modicum of remorse, so fanatical is his hatred for them. The film is starkly brutal, there is no cinematic sheen, the scores that are shot bleed profusely as they fall to the ground like rag dolls.
Fiennes, whose face can be both that of a mild-mannered Englishman and sinister villain all at once, delivers a performance that’s nuanced and restrained yet hauntingly evil. Just like an inundated office worker, Göth complains to Oskar about the pressures of the job, which at the time is the exhumation of thousands of rotting corpses – ‘Can you believe this? As if I don’t have enough to do they come up with this? I have to find every rag buried up here and burn it.’
Like Adolf Eichmann, the logistics man responsible for the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews, Fiennes’ depiction of Amon Göth is another example of Hannah Arendt’s phrase ‘the banality of evil’. It is a compelling depiction of one of the Third Reich’s most committed defenders; a man deeply entrenched in Nazi ideology that has lost almost all humanity.
The relationship between Schindler and Göth and his SS cronies is quite uneasy for the viewer. Schindler enjoys pushing the boundaries, he thrives off being a renegade, in one scene he kisses a Jewish woman in the presence of a whole party of SS officials.
As the film progresses and Schindler realises both the abhorrence of the situation and his power to do something about it, something of a good vs. evil dichotomy arises. Deriders may say this is a simplistic construct, but it isn’t, they are two complex characters. Their exchanges shows that Schindler is the strongest leader between him, he has personality and charm, whereas Göth only has ruthless barbarism, something Göth realises and struggles with.
The film has grand scope and many brilliant set pieces. A notable example is the ‘Red girl’ scene during the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto, it is very impressive logistically, there are countless extras who all need directing. Schindler, who is atop a hill witnessing the brutality below, is the camera’s point of view, following this little girl in a red coat (famously one of the few moments of colour in the film) as she navigates her way through all the murder and pillaging. The scale of the scenes at the Płaszów concentration camp is also considerable, particularly as great masses of prisoners, naked and completely dehumanised, are shuffled around like cattle for inspection.
Interestingly, Spielberg said that Schindler really did see a red girl walk down the street unharmed during the liquidation; Spielberg then said that her bright red coat represented the obviousness of the Holocaust and how the Allied governments were aware of what was happening yet didn’t take any decisive actions in stopping it. I am not one for finding grand metaphors in an item such as a red coat, I think the scene is most interesting as a re-enactment of Schindler’s account, however I’m sure many would.
Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski said that the film was shot in black and white so it would look ‘timeless’. I think the colouring achieved the desired effect, and I also think the film’s visceral edge and authenticity was achieved through the hand-held, shaky cinematography that would later work so well in Saving Private Ryan (1998).
A great film will almost always have a great score, and it is no different with Schindler’s List as Spielberg once again found a masterful auditory companion in John Williams, whose beautifully melancholy score, particularly the central violin melody, has become instantly recognisable to many people.
The depiction of the mass exhumation at Chujowa Górka (pictured above) is set against the backdrop of Immolation (With Our Lives, We Give Life), the stirring operatic vocals and chords of which make the scene almost apocalyptic. There is also notable use of Hebrew music, such as the ebullient Yerushalaim Shel Zahav and the haunting Oyf’n Pripetshek/Nacht Aktion. Even the trailer leaves a huge impression through music. ‘Exodus’, a work by the celebrated Polish composer Wojciech Kilar, has a brooding subtlety that emphasises the trailer’s ominous ambiguity, making its two minutes and twelve seconds most moving and unsettling.
Despite massive universal acclaim, the film inevitably had its detractors, most notably Stanley Kubrick, who said:
‘The Holocaust is about 6 million people who get killed. Schindler’s List is about 600 who don’t.’
Firstly, around 1200 were saved, not 600. Kubrick suggests that ‘Schindler’s List’ is somehow a sugar-coated account of the Holocaust, it certainly isn’t. It is a true story, Oskar Schindler really did save 1200 people, it isn’t a fanciful, maudlin figment of a screenwriter’s imagination. It is an emotionally affecting yet tactful depiction of both the systematic murder of scores of defenceless people and a complicated man’s remarkable act of humanity in the face of unimaginable suffering.
99 of 110 people found the following review helpful
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The perfect gift for all movie enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Thomas Keneally's novel based on the role of Oscar Schindler during the holocaust was very much his cinematic coming of age.
Many have criticized Schindler as a profiteer and coward for not taking up arms against the Nazis. He was not a soldier and if he had done, at best he may have killed a handful of inconsequential German troops before dying a "hero's death". And every man, woman and child who worked in his factory would have been murdered. Spielberg does not shy away from the fact that he was not a saint, showing him to be a womaniser and hedonistic opportunist but when he was faced with the human tragedy of his environment he acted; a reaction that was all too rare at the time.
In fact Spielberg draws parallels between Schindler and Goeth, his counterpart in the military work camp but whereas the industrialist was a man of compassion, Goeth was the embodiment of the Nazi party; a cold, cruel and ruthless man who acted without conscience or mercy.
It's true that the film is guilty of button pushing, but it is the manipulation of a master story teller; the highlighting of the girl in the red coat in particular is obviously Spielberg's way around the old adage of "one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic." Putting a human face on an individual tragedy is the only way it is possible to process horror on such an unimaginable scale.
Beautifully shot and expertly played, Schindler's List is a remarkable and moving film that will no doubt be part of a larger monument to an atrocity that must be remembered to ensure that it is never, ever repeated.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
No matter what one might think (in general) of Steven Spielberg’s cinema or (in particular) of his choice to bring to the big screen this 1993 depiction of the Holocaust and the 'conflicted Samaritan’ Oskar Schindler – such as ‘its subject matter provides an “easy win”, accolade-wise’ or 'the true horrors of this episode cannot be authentically portrayed by someone who did not experience them’ (both actual criticisms levelled at Spielberg’s film) – for me, Schindler’s List actually demonstrates what a master craftsman Spielberg can be. Not only is his film a (perhaps surprisingly) unsentimental, hard-hitting depiction of one of the bleakest episodes in human history, but it also represents over three hours of cinematic virtuosity, showcasing a riveting (and intimately human) narrative and a host of brilliant (career best, in some cases) acting turns.
Looks-wise, Spielberg pulled a (perhaps obvious) masterstroke in choosing to depict the predominantly harrowing events in cinema-vérité style black-and-white (courtesy of cinematographer Janusz Kaminski), thereby both enhancing the film’s period authenticity (for the bleak depiction of the ‘in-construction’ Plaszow concentration camp) and giving his film a 'noir look’ (for its 'lush’, atmospheric interiors). Similarly, Spielberg’s decision to cast relative unknowns, Liam Neeson as Schindler and Ralph Fiennes as the cruel and inhuman Nazi, Amon Goeth, ensured that their character depictions were not compromised by any 'film-star baggage’. Thus, the film is set up to portray one of cinema’s most powerful and challenging 'two-handers’ – Neeson’s suave entrepreneur and (initially) Nazi-sympathiser, an 'insider’ attempting to lure Fiennes’ 'random supremacist’ into providing the most miniscule relief (e.g. water hoses on sweltering, packed trains) for his humiliated and dehumanised captives.
Acting-wise, mention should also be made of Ben Kingsley’s stoic accountant Itzhak Stern and Embeth Davidtz’s stunningly powerful turn as Goeth’s subjugated maid, Helen Hirsch, but equally to Spielberg’s chosen cast of thousands of extras (including many Israelis and Poles), whose 'enforced anonymity’ is one of the film’s abiding memories. Of course, along the way we are given a seemingly endless series of uncompromising acts of Nazi 'matter-of-fact’ cruelty (sadistic executions, forced family separations, mass destruction of possessions, etc) and many powerfully cinematic moments (Schindler’s 'turning point’ on espying the 'girl in the red coat’, Schindler/Goeth’s 'power discussion’, Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit playing on the radio, the women’s Auschwitz ordeal, etc).
It is also interesting to note that Roman Polanski turned down the opportunity to make the film and whilst his own later film The Pianist covers much similar ground almost as effectively, it is difficult to conceive of any other portrayal of this subject surpassing Spielberg’s.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
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
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 2 February 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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 August 2007
I dont want to say the word 'film' because from the moment the film starts, you are not watching a film, YOU are transported to a terrible time in history. You are there in the moment. My heart beat so fast. My chest was full of every emotion, fear, absolute sadness, anger, and sheer horror. I knew about the holocaust in my mind, but after watching this film... 'I truly 'GOT IT'.
I didn't just watch a film and neither will you... Steven Speilberg will take you back in time, and you WILL be there!!
I cried during the film and after. I felt the film in my heart for days, and it will stay in my mind forever.
Steven Speilberg is an absolute Genius. Filming in black and white was very important. You dont need colours. You are educated with the horror of this awful Holocaust. No amount of colours will change anything.
The Actors are FIRST CLASS.
At the end, seeing the real people who were portrayed in the film was so emotional and gave me some comfort.
This will always be my top film. I cannot praise Steven Speilberg enough. Thank you for taking me there, and for letting my eyes see the TRUTH.
You must watch this film. It will stay with you forever.
34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
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.