Schindler’s List (1993)

Schindler’s List (1993)
  • Time: 195 min
  • Genre: Biography | Drama | History
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Cast: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley


“Schindler’s List” is the based-on-truth story of Nazi Czech business man Oskar Schindler, who uses Jewish labor to start a factory in occupied Poland. As World War II progresses, and the fate of the Jews becomes more and more clear, Schindler’s motivations switch from profit to human sympathy and he is able to save over 1100 Jews from death in the gas chambers.


  • Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 75 years, you’re probably quite aware of the Holocaust and the horrific events surrounding it. However, you may not be aware of the story of Oskar Schindler, a rich industrialist that used his production empire to save the lives of some 1,200 Jews from certain death. His astounding work is the focus of Steven Spielberg’s film, Schindler’s List.

    At the beginning of World War II, in the Kraków Ghetto, Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a businessman and member of the Nazi Party, opens an enamelware factory, hiring Jewish workers because they are cheaper labour. He appoints a local Jewish man Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) as his managerial assistant, all the while, Oskar maintains his links with local officials and members of the SS, bribing them to allow his workers to stay. A notorious womaniser and drinker, Oskar maintains a high profile and lavish image whilst many of his workers struggle to survive.

    With a new concentration camp to be constructed in Kraków, SS member Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) is put in charge of the project. Goeth is relentless in his anti-Semitic actions, often referring to the inhabitants of the Ghetto as “rats” and executing people randomly for his own amusement. When Schindler meets Goeth, he forms a pseudo-friendship with the man, in the hope that he will prove useful down the line. Indeed, towards the end of the war, when Goeth is ordered to send the remaining Jews for extermination, Schindler is able to bribe him into letting him keep his workers. The names of these workers and their families, compiled by Schindler and Stern to send to Goeth, would become known as “Schindler’s List”.

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  • A group of people sits around a table, and a man begins to sing a Jewish prayer. A match is lit, and it lights a candle. As the prayer fades out, so does the fire; the flame turns to smoke, and the frame goes colorless.
    A man sits alone at a restaurant, but it is obvious that this will not last for long. He quickly buys a nearby table drinks, and it does not take long before he is posing for pictures and clinking glasses with fellow patrons. He is Oskar Schindler, an extremely well-to-do man who has made a fortune off of the enamelware business. He is a member of the upper class in a low period for Germany. All Jewish citizens have been collected and forced to be segregated. Their homes are thrashed, and their wages are cut down to little. Seeing a chance to utilize this new cheap labor, Schindler hires a few Jewish workers, including accountant Itzhak Stern. As the ghetto liquidations occur before both Oskar’s and the audience’s eyes, we see the pure brutality that is dispensed by the Nazi SS. Although Oskar does not agree that the Jews should be given such horrible treatment, he is not quite motivated to save the Jewish until he witnesses the concentration camps. As he is a very wealthy man, he begins to financially persuade the release of prisoners by Nazi officers, including camp commandant Amon Goeth.
    In his first moments on screen, Goeth’s barbaric antics are immediately witnessed. He shoots down a man for tying his shoe while working, a woman who walks slowly is beaten, and when a crime is committed, the guilty man is executed at point-blank. Even to his final days, Goeth refuses to have mercy on the helpless prisoners under his control. Though he accepts the bribes from Schindler, he does so simply out of greed.
    Through his selfless acts of saving the Jewish prisoners from the concentration camps, Oskar Schindler is transformed from an affluent businessman to a benevolent savior. Although he has been recognized for saving hundreds of Jews, his last words that we hear are regretful that he could not have saved more.

    Hailed as truly a modern classic, Schindler’s List is a landmark film in cinematic history. Never before had such a poignant depiction of the Holocaust been given in America. This is one of director Steven Spielberg’s biggest critical successes. Although his filmography also includes fantastic works like ET: Extra Terrestrial, Jaws, the Indiana Jones franchise, Jurassic Park, and one of my favorite movies in Saving Private Ryan, this film in 1993 is one of his greatest.
    The acting in this film is carried by Liam Neeson as Schindler and Ralph Fiennes as the cruel Amon Goeth. I found this to be one of Neeson’s best performances, and had he not been contending with Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, I believe that he could have won Best Actor.
    My biggest praise for this film, however, is the cinematography. Choosing to shoot the film in black-and-white rather than the traditional color, the makers of this film emphasize the historical nature of this story. When an emotional scene involves a tracking shot, the camera shakes and moves with an energy that matches the character(s) that it follows. I also find that the spare use of color is a great artistic addition. When the film begins, it is in color for a short moment, and just as life loses its color for the Jews, the color onscreen fades to a stark black and white. Also, the famous “girl in the red dress” is a beautiful moment. The girl is a representation of a single person in the middle a crowd of helpless victims. The camerawork in this film is truly worthy of the recognition that it received from the Academy.
    In addition to a win for Best Director and Cinematography, Schindler’s List also won statuettes for Adapted Screenplay, Set Direction, Original Score, Film Editing, and (best of all) Best Picture.
    I have two major cons that I disliked in this film, and though they are small, they still seem noteworthy. First, I found there to be too much nudity in the film. Though none of it is of the sexual nature, I still found it to be bothersome. In its defense, the nudity adds to the feeling of dehumanization; however, it didn’t quite seem right. My other negative comment is the length (3 hours and 15 minutes). I started this movie a few nights ago, and I stopped halfway through so that I could go to sleep at a reasonable time. In the days that followed, I could not find the time to finish it due to the amount of time left in the movie. Finally, I was able to finish it today, and I am happy that I have been able to finish it.

    Besides the (in my opinion) excessive nude shots and lengthy run-time, this film is fantastic. It is surely not for the faint of heart, as it never hesitates for a moment to show the raw emotion of the Holocaust.

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