Schindler's List (1994) – Film Review

★★★★★ A German businessman puts his own life at risk to save his Jewish workforce from the Holocaust in WWII in Schindler's List.

In Poland during WWII a German businessman puts his own life at risk to save his Jewish workforce from the Holocaust.

It has often been said: “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” This quote was never truer than during WWII as Hitler and his Nazi party sought the ‘final solution to the Jewish question’. They wanted to know how they could rid the world of Jews.

Their answer was the systematic genocide of Jews and before the war had ended they had murdered approximately six million Jewish men, women and children.

There are tales of Jews who survived. Some sent their young children away on Kindertransport before the war broke out and some were hidden by non-Jews in Nazi occupied countries. Despite this, many were rounded up and put into Jewish ghettos and eventually forced to work in labour camps or shot if they did no co-operate or were elderly or infirm. However, most were taken to death camps and gassed hundreds at a time. It is one of human history’s darkest chapters.

One tale of survival though strikes at the very core of what it means to be a good man. As in the quote above, one good man did do something to ensure evil did not triumph. That man was Oskar Schindler.

It is 1939 and as war breaks out Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), an ethnic German businessman, travels to Krakow, Poland in the hope of earning massive profit from the war. He is a member of the Nazi party and bribes Nazi officials and SS Officers to secure his ownership of a factory and a Jewish workforce. Befriending a Jewish accountant, Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), Oskar sets about employing Jewish workers as they are cheaper than Christian workers and he enjoys new found wealth and status as ‘Herr Direktor’.

As time goes on, however, things get very bad for the Jewish workers as Nazi soldiers start to round them up, separate the men from the women, parents from children and begin shooting many for the smallest of reasons. Witnessing this massacre Schindler realises he must do something and sets about creating a list of ‘skilled’ workers who he needs to keep his factory running. These people on his ‘list’ would therefore not be transferred to the death camps and would hopefully survive.

Shot in black and white, Steven Spielberg creates what can only be described as a masterpiece. He had to though, you cannot tell a story like this with a half-arsed attempt at movie making. This story deserves, no, MUST be told in a way that will ensure as many people as possible will see it. We must never ever forget the atrocities of the Holocaust and those who helped to save as many as they could.

While the story is indeed true, the film itself is based on the Thomas Keneally book Schindler’s Ark and it matches the story almost perfectly. The author painted incredible imagery to show how systematic the Jewish persecution was and Spielberg translates this to screen exactly how you’d imagine, with incredible scenes of non-Jewish children screaming at the Jews as they are led away, some running a finger across their throats to symbolise the Jews are going to die, the young Jewish girl in a red coat – who stands out as the only colour on screen – walking through the commotion of a ghetto being cleared, Nazi soldiers ignoring her despite how noticeable she is, sending the message that, as far as the Nazis were concerned, they would get them all eventually anyway.

Schindler’s List is tough to watch, Spielberg pulls no punches and leaves an uncomfortable and sickening lump in your throat as you watch children hiding in cesspits to escape SS soldiers, women naked, cold and frightened, herded into dark rooms as they expect to be gassed. The gold teeth, glasses and personal belongings of the dead, thousands of them, sorted to be recycled or reused in a bid to help the Nazi war effort. Incredible performances by Neeson and Kinglsey show the frustration, appreciation and sadness of men from both sides of the fence but the psychotic nature in Ralph Fiennes as SS Officer Amon Göth, a man that Schindler has to befriend and bribe to save his workers, really hammers home the malevolence behind those who ran the death camps.

Considered to be one of the greatest films of all time, and winning seven Academy Awards, three Golden Globes and six BAFTA’s, Schindler’s List is one of those films that you really must see, if not for the quality of the film itself but to remember the atrocities of the Holocaust and one man who tried to save as many as he could.

Best scene: The real Schindler Jews, accompanied by those that played them in the film, place stones on Schindler’s grave as a mark of gratitude.
Best line: “It’s Hebrew, it’s from the Talmud. It says, “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire”.”

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