Sunday, March 18, 2012

Schindler's List

That DVD has been at my home for a long time, yet I waited a long time to watch it. After all, more than three hours of WW II black and white scenes can potentially put you off. Man, was I wrong. Schindler’s List (1993) was directed was Steven Spielberg, based on novel Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally, and stars Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley.
The film got many Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Score, and is number 8 as AFI’s 100 best films of all times.

The story is about Oskar Schindler, a member of the Nazi party, and how he saved thousands of Jews from a certain death by employing them in his factory.

At first, Oskar (Neeson) is trying to do business. Employing Jews costs less than employing Poles, so that’s what he does. Gradually though, he begins to see them not as inter-exchangeable resources but as people. People that eventually he saves. I’m thinking the growing friendship (or what could be interpreted as friendship) with his accountant Itzahk Stern (Ben Kingsley) plays an important role in his evolution, but for me the turning point is meeting Amon Göth (Ralph Fiennes), a cruel soldier who kills as he pleases.

Ralph Fiennes is a great cast for this role, and makes a perfect credible villain, torn between his convictions and inner cruel nature, and the fact that he is actually falling for Helen, a Jewish woman he has hired as a maid. Although I got to say, I am not entirely sure his German accent was entirely credible. Nevertheless, he is terrifying.

Liam Neeson is plain incredible and provides compelling and inspiring emotion. He is torn between what is taught by its party and what’s “right”. At first it is all about business but in the end it’s not about business at all – he spends money to save everyone, literally buying their freedom and even life, he spends money to keep his factory going even though what it produces is worthless. He is an illustration of person, like all of us, torn between what he is told to do, politics, reason. Nothing’s ever black and white – the man is guilty of adhering to a very very questionable philosophy, yet he sees the light and puts himself in danger to correct the situation and do what’s right.

Oskar Schindler: Stern, if this factory ever produces a shell that can actually be fired, I'll be very unhappy.

Itzhak Stern: This list... is an absolute good. The list is life. All around its margins lies the gulf.

Oskar Schindler: Look, All you have to do is tell me what it's worth to you. What's a person worth to you?
Amon Goeth: No, no, no, No. What's one worth to you!

This is a difficult film to review. Compared to other movies about the Holocaust I may have seen, the scenes were much more graphic and at times, I felt, unnecessary – too much. However, for the people who lived it, it was not just three hours, it was years so maybe not unnecessary: this reminds us of the value of life, and of never letting this happen again. The movie is sincere and, more than a story, I would almost see it as a documentary and encourage everyone to see this, if only to be reminded that no matter what, there is still some good in human nature. Those three hours will fly by.