There are some movies that we can watch again and again because we love them so much. We can recite them line for line, scene for scene. Then there are those movies that we don’t watch as often, but because they are so powerful and so moving they stay with us. Steven Spielberg has made plenty of the former, but a handful of the latter. However, the crown jewel of his impressive filmography that spans five decades is his 1993 masterpiece, Schindler’s List.
I admit that I didn’t see it in theaters, mainly as at the time it came out I was 8 Years old .I did however experience it on television, in history class, and on DVD. A very good friend of mine gave me a DVD copy of the movie as a Christmas present. To some it seems like an odd choice. But for me as someone who loves the films of Steven Spielberg, loves history and appreciates the art of film making it was a welcome gift.
This movie came out in 1993, the year Spielberg gave his ultimate one two punch at the box office. First, in the summer, he would thrill us and excite us with Jurassic Park. Then he would render our hearts with Schindler’s List. These two films alone prove what a talented filmmaker he really was. Could you see any of today’s other hot movie makers going from a Jurassic Park to a Schindler’s List type of movie?
What can be said about Steven Spielberg’s directing, John Williams’s score, or the acting of not one, not two, but three brilliant actors, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley? More specifically what can be said about them that hasn’t been said? Words like brilliant, breathtaking, moving, gripping and haunting all come to mind, and all are perfect descriptions for this film.
Adding to the movies impact is Spielberg’s choice to shoot the movie in black and white. Color would have lessened its impact. By shooting it in black and white, it makes the movie much more sobering. The images you see are not only like images form history text books brought to life, but they become like ghosts of that past. They haunt you and stay with you.
There are only a few bits of color in the film. The iconic red coat girl, who symbolizes in her own way all the blood that was shed, at the very end when the real survivors lay stones of remembrance on Schindler’s grave in Jerusalem alongside the actors who portrayed them, and one moment more: when a Sabbath candle is lit. That single flame light is almost a reminder to the viewer that even in the darkness and depravity of our world there will always be a little light and hope.
Appropriately when Spielberg was asked what two movies he’d like to be remembered for, he chose E.T. and Schindler’s List. It’s hard not to see why. Schindler’s List is nothing short of a labor of love. To call it a “movie” seems almost cheap. In fact I struggled with wanting to do a 20th anniversary retrospective on the film as it is so powerful. This isn’t a movie you blog about or post memorable quotes from on Facebook or Twitter.
This is part of the reason it took forever for me to get it on DVD. It’s not the kind of movie you toss in your shopping cart when you’re picking up milk, rice, beans and socks at Target. It’s not the type of film that you quickly select for a movie night with your buddies. This film is real, raw and powerful. It is nothing short of a work of art. BEcause it’s a work of art it must not only be discussed, but remembered.
Perhaps the best word to describe this film, is remembrance. As such this isn’t a movie for everyone. This isn’t some sweet syrupy romantic comedy or a rousing adventure flick where robots battle each other for dominion over Earth. In many ways watching it is not unlike eating the bitter herbs of remembrance at a Passover Seder. It’s difficult, it’s not sweet, but it is important. At the Passover Jews remember their years of bondage in Egypt when they eat of the herbs. When we watch this film, we remember the years of bitterness in World War II. Years that must never be forgotten.
This is a film that reaches down into the very depths of your being and stays there. It is a film that causes you to open your eyes and think, and perhaps feel. Only a true artist like Steven Spielberg could produce this kind of masterpiece, and the world is indebted to him for his efforts.
Itzak Stern, Schindler’s accountant, ( played by Ben Kingsley in the movie) sums it up best. “This list is an absolute good. This list is life. All around it’s margins lies the gulf.”