Schindler's List : A Cinematic Masterpiece That Captures the Horror of the Holocaust
Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film “Schindler’s List” powerfully and emotionally portrays the story of the Holocaust, one of the darkest periods in human history. The movie is based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who used his position and resources to save the lives of more than 1,100 Jews during World War II. “Schindler’s List” received numerous awards, including seven Oscars, three Golden Globe Awards, and seven BAFTA Awards. Many consider the movie to be one of the greatest films ever made, and it stands as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
Schindler, a shrewd entrepreneur, initially hired Jewish workers in his enamelware factory to save on labor costs. However, as the Nazi regime began mistreating the workers, Schindler became sympathetic to their plight. He collaborated with his accountant, Itzhak Stern, to bribe Nazi officials and safeguard his workers from deportation and certain death. Additionally, he provided better living conditions and medical care for the workers.
As the war drew to a close, Schindler took a great risk and spent his fortune to relocate his workers to a safer location, ultimately saving them from the gas chambers of Auschwitz. The movie, “Schindler’s List,” portrays the harsh reality of the Holocaust while highlighting the courage and compassion of individuals who chose to act in the face of evil. It serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of standing up for what is right.
The film’s ending is equally powerful. As the advancing Russian army approached, Schindler prepared to flee. His workers, however, presented him with a letter expressing their gratitude and love. This scene is a testament to the bond that Schindler formed with his workers and the impact that one person can have on the lives of so many others.
Schindler’s List is known for its compelling characters. The film centers around Oskar Schindler, a member of the Nazi party who initially saw the Jews as a source of cheap labor for his factory. However, as he witnessed their mistreatment and persecution, he became sympathetic to their plight. Liam Neeson portrayed Schindler as a flawed but ultimately heroic figure who risked his own life to save others.
Itzhak Stern, a Jewish accountant, became Schindler’s right-hand man in his efforts to save the Jewish workers in his factory. Ben Kingsley portrayed Stern as a quiet and unassuming figure who possessed a deep knowledge of the workings of the Nazi bureaucracy. He was essential to Schindler’s plan to save as many Jews as possible, and his relationship with Schindler was one of the film’s most moving aspects.
Other standout performances included Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth, the sadistic Nazi commander of the Plaszow concentration camp who oversaw the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto, and Embeth Davidtz as Helen Hirsch, a Jewish maid who became Goeth’s personal slave. Fiennes was terrifying in his portrayal of the brutal, cold-hearted Goeth, while Davidtz was heartbreaking in her portrayal of a woman forced to endure unspeakable horrors.
The film’s cinematography was equally impressive, with stunning black-and-white visuals that captured the bleakness and despair of the Holocaust. Spielberg used a variety of techniques to create a sense of intimacy and immediacy, including handheld cameras and close-ups that put the audience right in the middle of the action. The film’s use of color was also notable, with a few key scenes that featured a splash of red, emphasizing the bloodshed and violence of the Nazi regime
The film includes several poignant anecdotes that contribute to its emotional impact. In one scene, a group of Jewish children are loaded onto a train bound for Auschwitz, and Schindler realizes that they will likely be killed upon arrival. He breaks down in tears, reminding the audience of the innocent lives lost during the Holocaust and emphasizing Schindler’s humanity.
In another memorable moment, Schindler presents his workers with gold rings inscribed with the Talmudic phrase, “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” This touching tribute highlights Schindler’s compassion and selflessness and underscores the impact that a single act of kindness can have in the face of overwhelming evil.
Steven Spielberg, who is Jewish by faith, initially turned down the opportunity to direct the film, feeling that he was not equipped to handle such a weighty subject. It was only after he was shown a photograph of a young girl who had died in the Holocaust that he changed his mind and decided to take on the project.
Cast and Production Challenges
Many of the actors in the film were not professional actors but rather Holocaust survivors or their descendants. For example, Oliwia Dabrowska, the actress who played the role of the girl in the red coat, was only three years old at the time of filming and had no prior acting experience. She was chosen for the role because of her resemblance to the girl in the original photograph that inspired the film.
The production team faced several challenges during filming. Spielberg insisted on filming in black and white, which was unusual for a film made in the 1990s. This decision was made to give the film a more authentic and timeless feel and to differentiate it from other Hollywood films. However, it created difficulties for the cinematographer, who had to use a specially developed technique to achieve the desired look.
Another challenge was finding locations to shoot the film. Spielberg was determined to film on location in Poland, where many of the events of the Holocaust took place. However, many of the historical sites had been destroyed or were inaccessible, and there were concerns about filming in a country that had been occupied by Nazi Germany. Despite these challenges, the production team was able to find suitable locations and recreate the period accurately.
“Schindler’s List” has had a significant impact beyond the movie theater. The Schindler’s List Foundation was established after the film’s release to provide financial support to Holocaust survivors and their families. The film has also been used as an educational tool to teach about the Holocaust and the importance of tolerance and compassion.
Perhaps the most important thing about “Schindler’s List” is that it reminds us of the humanity that can be found even in the darkest of times. Despite the horror and brutality of the Holocaust, there were still people like Oskar Schindler who were willing to risk everything to help others. The film serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of compassion, empathy, and the courage to do what is right.
In conclusion, “Schindler’s List” after 30 years of its release continues to be a cinematic masterpiece that is worth every minute of your time due to its
- Steven Spielberg (Director)
- Steven Zaillian (Screenplay)
- Gerald R. Molen and Branko Lustig (Producers)
- Janusz Kaminski (Cinematography)
- Michael Kahn (Editing)
- John Williams (Music)
- Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler
- Ben Kingsley as Itzhak Stern
- Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth
- Caroline Goodall as Emilie Schindler
- Jonathan Sagall as Poldek Pfefferberg
- Embeth Davidtz as Helen Hirsch
- Malgorzata Gebel as Wiktoria Klonowska
- Shmuel Levy as Wilek Chilowicz
- Mark Ivanir as Marcel Goldberg