ACADEMY AWARD WINNER: BEST PICTURE
A German businessman exploiting forced Jewish labor ends up saving hundreds of Jews from extermination. Based on a true story. Schindler’s List credits: [Dir: Steven Spielberg/ Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes/ 195 min/ Drama/ Democide]
As much a history of the Holocaust as a story about Oskar Schindler, this film traces Schindler’s involvement with Jewish prisoners from the beginning of the Jewish roundup to the end of World War II.
At first, Schindler was just an indifferent German making money at the expense of captured Jews. But as is portrayed in the film, his experience gradually transformed him. Partly it was his exposure to actual Jews who worked for him that humanized them in his eyes and made their plight tangible, and partly it was the full realization of the horror and sadism to which they were being subjected that sensitized him to what was happening. In the end, of course, he risked his life and spent his entire fortune on bribes and black-market purchases to keep them alive, ultimately saving 1,100 lives.
This is a good example of one person making a difference in the face of authoritarian rule and probably one of the few even marginally upbeat stories to come out of the Nazi period. That element of hope was needed to broach the subject of the Holocaust to a wide audience. Plenty of documentaries, and even some good films, had been made on the subject before, but few people watched such tales of unmitigated horror and sadness. This was the first Holocaust movie to fully grip nationwide (and even global) attention, and in so doing, it did more to bring home to the general public what it means when governments round people up and kill them than any film before or since. It’s a wonderful tribute to Schindler, and to others who have taken great risks to save victims of democide.
Of course, libertarians rarely speak of the Holocaust without mentioning the importance of private gun ownership. The “right to keep and bear arms” was included in the U.S. Constitution as a preventative to just such kind of atrocity. Schindler too understood the importance of guns and bought guns on the black market so his Jews could, in the worst case, protect themselves. But you don’t see anything about that here. Hollywood doesn’t like private gun ownership.
In artistic terms, this is a masterfully crafted film with a moving John Williams musical score and inspired acting. But what really drives it is the story and the fact that it happened. When I saw it in the theater, after it ended the theater audience remained seated and in silence until the credits had passed, out of respect; that’s the only time I’ve ever seen that happen.
This film won seven Academy Awards.
External Reviews of Schindler’s List
“What is most amazing about this film is how completely Spielberg serves his story. The movie is brilliantly acted, written, directed and seen. Individual scenes are masterpieces of art direction, cinematography, special effects, crowd control…There is a single-mindedness to the enterprise that is awesome.”
“With seemingly effortless grace and skill, Schindler’s List balances fear and exaltation, humor and horror, love and death. It evokes, superbly, a time of savagery and grief, and the inexplicable, stunning compassion that rises within and against it.”