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Schindler’s List

Description of Film:  Mesmerizing.  I cannot imagine how difficult, how terrifyingly difficult it must be to take on a task as immense as documenting events of the Holocaust.  I cannot fathom how you would begin to turn stories, letters, photographs, and mountains and mountains of gut-wrenching memories into a three-hour movie that conveys the horror and unbelievable sadness, the degradation and humanity, of an event like this.  Yet Steven Spielberg, the mastermind behind movies like Saving Private Ryan and E.T. managed to deliver a spellbinding piece of film history in Schindler’s List.  This movie is based on the true events in the life of Oskar Schindler, a business man who lived during the Holocaust.  Schindler was living in Poland and trying to make a considerable fortune for himself by using the Jews as the Nazi’s desired:  for cheap labor.  Schindler, played in extraordinary fashion by Liam Neeson (Kinsey), seeks the financial advice of Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley, House of Sand and Fog).  The two begin to construct a factory from two formerly Jewish-owned manufacturers of enamel kitchenware. 

Schindler begins as a greedy, affluent businessman, a member of the Nazi party who regularly cheats on his wife and enjoys the company of high-ranking officers.  However, Schindler gains a new appreciation for life after watching the dehumanization of the Jewish people day after day; after seeing innocent men, women and children brutally killed in the streets with no thought of their innocence or for the preservation of human life.  He begins to cherish his factory workers and works hard to keep them out of concentration camps.  However, Schindler is constantly clashing with a high-ranking German officer who has become his friend, but who is considered a monster by all.  Amon Goeth, played beautifully by Ralph Fiennes (Red Dragon), is the very epitome of evil.  He shoots men, women and children in the camp from the balcony of his home as target practice.  He enjoys killing people, watching them die, and celebrating afterwards. 

Eventually, the Nazi’s “Final Solution” was implemented in Krakow.  That “solution” was the massacre of the Jews.  Schindler, in one final effort to save his workers, created a list of 1100 Jews that he wanted deported to his hometown in Czechoslovakia.  He argues that he needed them for his factory to produce materials for the war effort.  He was granted this request and Schindler, Stern and approximately 1100 Jews went to “work.” The factory was actually just for show; it was a safe haven for these Jews so that they could stay alive and wait out the war.  In all actuality, the factory did not produce one product for the war effort. 

This movie is rated R for graphic language, nudity, and what is deemed “actuality violence.”

This movie earned an astounding 12 Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor (Neeson), Best Supporting Actor (Fiennes), Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Best Sound.  It also won Academy Awards for Best Art Direction/Set Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Music/Original Score, Best Picture, Best Screenplay Based on Another Medium.

Why I Recommend This Film:  This movie was excellently made. The movie was shot almost completely in black and white, except for the opening and closing sequences and the color of a jacket that a little girl wears.  It is beautifully done and the acting is superb.  The original score is also hauntingly gorgeous; it was written by the amazing John Williams and performed by acclaimed violinist Itzhak Perlman.  I also really recommend renting the DVD (or buying it) and watching “Voices from the List,” one section on the Bonus Features list.  This section features testimonials from actual Holocaust survivors, the people who were really on Schindler’s list, or as they were called, Schindlerjuden, Schindler’s Jews, his children.

Why This Film Is Important:  One reason this movie is valuable is that it helps preserve the memories of Holocaust survivors so that we may never forget this terrible tragedy.  This movie tells a true story about  survival and hope and the struggle against evil and degradation.  It is the story of one man who “overcame his inner cowardice” and found it in himself to save 1100 people.  It is the story of a unlikely hero who proves how much a single individual can make a difference.  Today, there are thousands of descendants of “Schindler’s Jews.”  Without Oskar Schindler, 1100 more people would have been murdered. 

  “Schindler’s List” was  written by Thomas Keneally

Favorite Quotation:  (Upon finishing the list of people he hopes to save, Stern figures out that Schindler has actually paid for each of the people on the list.  Holding the list up, Stern says, “This list . . . is an absolute good. The list is life. All around its margins lies the gulf.”

Also in a 1964 interview, Oskar Schindler was asked why he did what he did.  He stated, “The persecution of Jews in the General Government in Polish territory gradually worsened in its cruelty. In 1939 and 1940 they were forced to wear the Star of David and were herded together and confined in ghettos. In 1941 and 1942 this unadulterated sadism was fully revealed. And then a thinking man, who had overcome his inner cowardice, simply had to help. There was no other choice.”
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