Schindler's List

1993, Movie, R, 185 mins


The seven Academy Awards and virtually unanimous acclaim accorded to SCHINDLER'S LIST were entirely merited. Director Steven Spielberg has achieved something close to the impossible--a morally serious, aesthetically stunning historical epic that is nonetheless readily accessible to a mass audience.

In 1941, the Jews of Nazi-occupied Kracow are dispossessed of their businesses and herded into a tiny, squalid ghetto. Small-time entrepreneur Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a gentile, conceives of a get-rich-quick scheme that involves Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), an accountant and member of the local judenrat (Jewish council), and an enamelware plant where cheap labor is supplied by ghetto Jews.

Stern sees a way to save Jewish lives: factory employees, classified as essential workers, are exempt from "resettlement" in concentration camps. Against his better judgment, Schindler looks the other way as Stern adds musicians, academics, rabbis, and cripples to the factory rolls. Within a year, the Final Solution is well underway, and a monstrous Nazi commandant, Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes), brutally liquidates the ghetto and ships surviving Jews to a forced labor camp. Schindler bribes the cynical Goeth to permit re-establishment of the factory within camp walls, and business continues more or less as before. But Schindler is changing, and at great risk to himself, he begins to take an active role in protecting his workers.

Though based on fact, SCHINDLER'S LIST is neither history, nor the "definitive" film version of the Holocaust some reviewers wanted it to be. It's an intensely personal meditation on the nature of heroism and moral choice, rendered on the kind of rich, dreamlike cinematic canvas that only Hollywood can realize. Far from a departure for Spielberg, SCHINDLER'S LIST is the fulfillment of his singular talent for achieving high seriousness--as with EMPIRE OF THE SUN--within and despite the constraints of corporate filmmaking. leave a comment

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