Universally acclaimed as one of the best films ever
made, "Schindler's List" lives up to its reputation.
Far different from director Steven Spielberg's previous
films, "Schindler's List" is never manipulative or
ponderous, and except for the stone-laying ceremony
at film's end, bears its 197-minute length exceptionally
well. Filmed in glorious black and white, and with
outstanding direction and dialogue, the film is nearly
perfect. Most surprising is the casting: no mega-stars
appear in the film, particularly in the female roles.
Casting is done to match the character, and not to
increase box office receipts.
The film takes place in Germany-occupied Poland,
during World War II. Polish Jews are forced to relocate
from the countryside to the large cities, then packed
into a walled-off ghetto, exploited as slave labor,
and finally forced into concentration camps. The Jews
lose first their property, then their freedom, then their
lives. What is most chilling about the genocide is
the ruthless efficiency in which it is performed: each
person is continually placed onto one of two lists;
one marked for immediate death, the other for death postponed.
The significance of the film's title is that this list
has an opposite purpose. It is a list to rescue its
members from near-certain death.
While the plight of the Jews serves as the film's context,
a German Gentile is its central character. Oskar Schindler
(Liam Neeson) is initially a conceited, manipulative
womanizer, whose cynical goal is to make a fortune during
the war using Jewish slave labor. His first employee
is taciturn, brilliant accountant Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley),
who sees Schindler's factory as an opportunity to save
Jews from extinction in concentration camps. Stern's task
is made more difficult by determined, murderous stormtroopers
led by Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes). Schindler is slowly
converted from capitalist to humanitarian, by film's end
risking his life and giving up his fortune to save Jewish lives.
Neeson's flexibility as an actor is impressive. His character
is always evolving, yet always convincing. Although perhaps
becoming too saintly: "Schindler's List" is a dramatization
more than it is a documentary.
"Schindler's List" won seven Academy Awards, including
those for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography
(Janusz Kaminski), Best Film Editing (Michael Kahn),
Best Score (credited to John Williams, but featuring violinist
Itzhak Perlman), Best adapted screenplay (Steven Zaillian).
Neeson and Fiennes were nominated for Best Actor and
Best Supporting Actor, respectively.
Copyright © 1995 Brian Koller