Schindler’s List is a 1993 biographical drama film about Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of more than a thousand Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. Apart from a strong plot, the movie is directed by Stephen Spielberg and stars Hollywood best actors; Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley.
I knew about the existence of the film, but never had the chance to watch it and I really can’t imagine how I spent all these years without watching it, and other years have and are passing without watching other films.
Oskar Schindler first goal is to make money as a war profiteer. He hires Polish-Jewish, believing to cost less almost nothing and Sponsored by the military, Schindler acquires a factory for the production of army mess kits. But Schindler does not know how to run the business thus he hires Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), an official of Krakow’s Judenrat(Jewish Council) who has contacts with the Jewish business community and the black marketers inside the Ghetto. The Jewish businessmen lend Schindler the money for the factory in return for a small share of products produced. This may seem as an unfair agreement, but Schindler wants to be rich, while Stern finds this as an opportunity to help many Jews. Stern falsifies many documents to ensure that as many people as possible are seem as “essential” to the Germans and to the war, which saves them from being transported to concentration camps, or being killed.
Things change though when SS Lieutenant Amon Göth (Ralph Fiennes) arrives in Kraków to supervise the construction of the new Płaszów concentration camp. Once the camp is completed, he orders the final liquidation of the ghetto. When the troops star the massacre Schindler assists and this is probably when his main goal is changed, or the turning point. Schindler goal to be rich is no longer what he now wants. He befriend Göth continues to enjoy SS support and protection. By doing so, he is able to convince Göth to build a sub-camp for his workers, so that he can keep his factory running smoothly and protect them for being executed.
As time passes Stern doesn’t only become his “employer” but his friend and the two try as much as they can to save many; Schindler for instance was supposed to hire one secretary, but hired many, while Stern always suggests new way to make workers valuable to Germans convincing.
But as time passes war also does and Göth is ordered to send all Jews to including Schindler’s workers – to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Schindler at first sees his job finished; he is rich and was able to save as much workers as he could. But when Schindler is ready to go, he realizes this is not what he was aiming for; money was not what he was trying to achieve all this time. With the help of Stern, he is able to buy a massive number of workers from Göth that charges a massive bribe for each worker. When he paid for every worker, Schindler and Stern assemble a list of workers who are to be kept off the trains to Auschwitz. They write the Schindler’s List.
We can see Schindler change in more than one episode; for example when he goes and takes his workers back after they were wrongly sent to Auschwitz. Or when he is able to save all children by bribing the camp commander and insisting that he needs their hands to polish the narrow insides of artillery shells. Schindler is a businessman, and he is a good one. He is able to convince anyone that he needs those works and must not be killed. And he is able to save them all, until the war is finally over.
The three main characters; Neeson, Fiennes and Kingsley did an amazing performance. I truly believe no other actors could have done a better performance. I thought they were astonishing actors before, but now they are probably the best actors I have ever seen. I could feel the emotions each character was trying to transmit; I could feel Göth dilemma with Helena, his maid, that he felt attracted to but couldn’t express this attraction and maybe love, because she was a Jew and because German didn’t allow it.
I could feel Stern dilemma at first whether or not trusting this strange businessman, this German businessman that seems to be helping but may be a trap. And I could also feel the bond, the friendship between Schindler and Stern when they were compiling the list trying to save the workers from a brutal massacre.
The entire movie, during the war, is filmed in black and white, adding a lot more intensity and emotions to the scenes; we cannot see the blood, but we know it is there. Light comes when war is over, at the end of the movie. Spielberg has made a wonderful job, describing each scene and making it sure every single detail is understood and that, most importantly it reaches the viewers. The scene where the take away the children on trucks and they unaware, smile and wave at their parents, or the one where some of those children are able to hide in the most unimaginable places, are the probably the most touching scenes of the movie; we live with them, we try and save the children on trucks with them and we hide and try help hiding with the other children.
John Williams composed the theme song, the piano theme that will be remembered as the movie will always be. He said to Spielberg, “You need a better composer than I am for this film.” Spielberg replied, “I know. But they’re all dead!” Still, Williams was able to create the best song for the best movie.
I probably didn’t give the movie what it deserve with this review, though there is one thing I can say; if you have made the error of not watching Schindler List until now, you are losing a great piece of good cinema. Where movies touch your heart and affect you in a way only few other things nowadays can.