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Based on a true story, SCHINDLER'S LIST is Steven Spielberg's epic drama of World War II Holocaust survivors and the man who... Read More
Based on a true story, SCHINDLER'S LIST is Steven Spielberg's epic drama of World War II Holocaust survivors and the man who unexpectedly came to be their savior. Unrepentant womanizer and war profiteer Oskar Schindler uses Polish Jews as cheap labor to produce cookware for the Third Reich. But after witnessing the violent liquidation of the walled ghetto where the Krakow Jews have been forced to live, Schindler slowly begins to realize the immense evil of Nazism. When his employees are sent to a work camp, they come under the terrorizing reign of sadistic Nazi Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes). With the help of his accountant, Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), Schindler creates a list of "essential" Jews. Bribing Goeth, Schindler manages to get 1,100 people released from the camp and brought to the safety of his munitions factory in Czechoslovakia. Spielberg's glorious film is wondrously evocative, visually stunning, and emotionally stirring. Minimize
98 Reviews from Epinions.com
Apr 22, 2009
I Couldn't Look Away
Pros: Every scene is powerful
Cons: (Sound of wind blowing)
The Bottom Line:
If "Saving Private Ryan" captures the essence of World War II for Americans, "Schindler's List" captures what it must have meant to those in occupied Europe.
Part of me did not want to have to review "Schindler's List" when I got a call from my girlfriend just as the movie was ending last night. But once she was off the phone I turned it back on anyway, although by that point the only scene left was the parade of Schindler Jews and actors past Schindler's grave in 1993. It was time for me to take on what is incomparably the best film of the 1990's and one of the best ever.
The film is set in what is now Poland and the Czech Republic between 1939 and 1945 and is dominated by the performances of the three leading men, then much less well-known actors: Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler, Ben Kingsley as Itzhak Stern, and Ralph Fiennes as SS Hauptsturmfuhrer Amon Goeth. Almost every scene is told from the point of view of at least one of these men. The subject matter is the extermination of Europe's Jews by the Nazis and the efforts made by a few Gentiles who were in a position to help, to save some hundreds of Jews.
Oskar Schindler is a businessman from the Sudeten province of the Czech Republic, annexed by Hitler in September 1938 (and according to the Wikipedia article on him, a spy for German military intelligence in the run-up to the annexation). A year later he is in Poland trying to take advantage of Hitler's takeover and the sudden legal restrictions imposed on Jews (for example, any wages they earn are paid to the SS). By 1941 he has 350 employees at his enamelware factory.
In the winter of 1942 he is introduced to a one-armed elderly man whom Stern, a gifted accountant, recruited to work at the factory. Not long thereafter the man is killed by the SS for being unable to shovel snow when all the workers headed for Schindler's factory are shanghaied by them. Schindler officially protests the man's death, insisting he was "a metal press operator. . .most skilled." At this point, he is still primarily motivated by money, women, and protesting the loss of what he views as little more than a thing that belongs to him. Or so it would seem, anyway.
The rest of the movie is about the gradual evolution of Schindler into a true humanitarian. The first appearance of what I think of as "Schindler's theme" is after the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto when a young Jewish woman who has been able to "pass" comes to him and begs him to save her parents from the Plashow concentration camp, run by Goeth, who comes to represent the entire Third Reich. (If the film seems melodramatic at times, it is because the Third Reich was a pretty darn effective incarnation of evil.) It is a signal that Schindler is changing and will now request workers explicitly for the purpose of keeping them alive.
The film's most unforgettable scene to me is the one where Goeth rejects the possibility of mercy. Schindler has earlier tried to convince him that true power consists of sparing those who deserve to die. Goeth at the camp spends most of his time randomly shooting people with a high-powered rifle from the balcony outside his bedroom, but undergoes a brief reformation as a result of this advice. Then suddenly, he finds himself looking into the mirror and saying, "I absolve you." He realizes this is impossible and at once is back to his old self, killing those who have and those who haven't offended him in any way. Forgiving oneself requires a strength that some people lack.
But there are a multitude of unforgettable scenes in "Schindler's List" and none is without at least a trace of power. The engineer's fatal intervention to prevent subsidence of the barracks as Plashow camp is being built. The move of Krakow's Jews to its ghetto. The liquidation of the ghetto. Schindler watching ash fall from the sky and realizing where it comes from. Schindler's final speech to those he saved and their captors. Nobody who has seen the film will ever forget any of these. I certainly won't. I would give "Schindler's List" six stars if epinions permitted it.
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