Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Schindler's List



Based on the novel by Thomas Keneally, Schindler’s List is the real-life story of a Czech-born German businessman who tries to save thousands of Jews by making them work in his factory during the era of the Holocaust in World War II. Directed by Steven Spielberg and screenplay by Steve Zaillian, the film is a look into the life of a man who tries to do good during one of the most horrific periods in the history of the world as the role of Oskar Schindler is played by Liam Neeson. Also starring Ben Kingsley, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagall, Embeth Davidtz, and Ralph Fiennes. Schindler’s List is a visceral yet evocative film from Steven Spielberg.

Told in the entire span of World War II in Europe from the Invasion of Poland to the aftermath of Germany’s surrender. The film plays into the life of Oskar Schindler during that period in World War II where he decided to have Jews working for him at his factory so they can stay alive while he deals with Nazi officials and such during the days of Polish ghettos and concentration camps. It’s a story that is quite simple yet it is also filled with a lot of graphic detail into what went on in Krakow, Poland and all of these places that the Germans had occupied during World War II. Even as Schindler has to deal with the sadistic Anom Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) who would become a concentration camp leader that has a sense of sick pleasure in killing Jews no matter who they are.

Steve Zaillian’s screenplay does have this very traditional yet broad three-act structure that plays into Schindler’s desire to save the lives of Jews by having him work in his factory and such. Yet, it also display Schindler as a man with some very big flaws such as the fact that he is a member of the Nazi party that would wear a Nazi pin in his suit. He would often socialize with Nazi officers and have drinks with them and was a notorious womanizer despite the fact that he is also married. It is among the many complexities of a man who would do something that is good but he is no saint despite his courageous act of kindness. The first act would play into Schindler’s social life and meeting this Jewish accountant in Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) who has contacts with black markets and such in the Jewish community where he would run Schindler’s enamelware factory in secrecy with Schindler being the one to over see everything.

While Stern is often suspicious of Schindler’s activities in and out of the factory, he is grateful for what Schindler is doing for the Jewish community who had been driven away from their homes and be forced to live in ghettos. The film’s second act plays into Goeth’s arrival and the creation of Plasnow concentration camp as it is a world that is very scary. Especially with Goeth watching over everything as the first taste of that sense of terror is where kills a young woman watching over the building a camp because she made a simple mistake. It adds to this sense of terror where Schindler tries to befriend him in order to keep people safe but it’s not enough where a scene where children are being driven away from their families is a big moment while there’s a few that would hide and manage to stay in the camp. The film’s third act doesn’t just play into the growing realities of what Schindler is facing but also in what he hopes to do as well as see what real power could do.

Steven Spielberg’s direction is very intense not just for some of the graphic violence that occurs in the film from time to time but also in the atmosphere that he creates. While it opens with shot in color of a simple Jewish ceremony where candles are lit, it plays to a world before war but that candle goes out. The film is then presented in black-and-white as it plays into this very chilling period of war and terror. Shot on location in Krakow, Poland and areas nearby, the film does play into a world that becomes undone by prejudice and occupation where Spielberg’s usage of hand-held cameras and tracking shots capture these moments where Jews are driven out of their homes and be cramped into these apartments where overcrowding becomes an issue. Spielberg’s usage of close-ups and medium shots do play into that intimacy but also in moments where there is very little space in comparison to the places where the Germans and Schindler lived in.

The usage of wide shots are also evident to capture the look of the locations as well as these eerie scenes such as the liquidation of Krakow where Schindler and his mistress are watching up on a hill into this moment where many Jews are being killed with some hiding from the Germans. There are also some very eerie scenes of dark comedy in the way Goeth handles situations such as how he kills Jews or a moment where he tries to kill a former rabbi. There are also these moments that play into Schindler’s own sense of disconnect from the realities of what is happening as it features a scene where he’s in a party having fun while Goeth beats a young Jewish maid as that moment is actually far more gruesome than the scenes of people being killed. It is among these moments that showcase not just a stench of death but also some of the eerie symbolism that Schindler is forced to confront that includes this strange image of the little girl in a red coat.

It’s not just these elements of symbolism that Spielberg would put in that are very evident as it relates to Schindler’s disconnect with what he really needed to do but also in how it would relate to the film’s ending. It showcases not just the development in Schindler but also the severity of what he had to do at not just great cost of his own but also in what more could be done. The film features an epilogue as it relates to the people who were saved because of Schindler as they’re presented in color as it reveals not just the fact that some of these people are still alive. It’s a moment where Spielberg breaks the fourth wall and allow these survivors to have their moment into how much Schindler meant to them no matter how flawed he is as a man. Overall, Spielberg creates a tremendously riveting and harrowing film about a man trying to save thousands of Jews in German-occupied Poland.

Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski does incredible work with the film‘s cinematography with its usage of lights for some of the scenes set at night as it has elements of film noir and German Expressionism in its black-and-white photography as well as the element of neo-realist images in its usage of tracking shots as it is one of the major highlights of the film. Editor Michael Kahn does amazing work with the editing as he uses some jump-cuts during a scene where Schindler interviews different prospective secretaries as well as some very chilling rhythm cuts that play into the violence and drama in the film. Production designer Allan Starski does excellent work with the look of the some of the interiors in the homes of Schindler and Goeth as well as the look of the concentration camps and some of the even more chilling interiors in Auschwitz. Costume designer Anna B. Sheppard does nice work with the costumes from the dresses that many of the rich women wear as well as the Nazi uniforms of the officers to the ragged look of the Jews.

Hair supervisor Judith A. Cory and makeup supervisor Christina Smith do fantastic work with the look of the characters from the hairstyle of the women in the posh world to the ragged look of the Jews in the numerous stages they would endure. Visual effects supervisor Steve Price does terrific work with two major moments of symbolism in the film from the color of red in the girl in the red coat and the Jewish candlelight scenes. Sound editors Charles L. Campbell and Louis L. Edemann do superb work with the sound in creating layers of sound in some of the chilling moments in the film as it relates to eerie scenes in some of the camps as well as what goes on in the ghettos along with some somber yet eerie moments late in the film. The film’s music by John Williams is great as it is very low key in its orchestration where it plays in these very eerie and somber moments that is supported by Itzhak Perlman’s violin playing as the music also features some of music that was playing in those times including the traditional Jewish prayer hymns.

The casting by Toya Cypin, Lucky Englander, Fritz Fleischhacker, Liat Meiron, Magdalena Szwarcbart, and Juliet Taylor is phenomenal as it features some noteworthy small roles from Oliwia Dabrowska as the little girl in the red coat, Hans-Michael Rehberg as Auschwitz camp leader Rudolf Hoss, and Andrzej Seweryn as SS Officer Julian Scherner that Schindler befriends to get him to ease restrictions for Jews. Other notable roles from Anna Mucha, Rami Heuberger, Piotr Polk, Norbert Weisser, Miri Fabian, Michael Schneider, Adi Nitzan, Jacek Wojcicki, Beata Paluch, Pawel Delag, Mark Ivanir, and Ezra Daga as the many Jewish refugees who would be spared and saved by Schindler as they would endure some of the most humiliating moments that no one should deal with. Jonathan Sagall is superb as Poldek Pfefferberg as a young Polish-Jew who would be an officer for the SS as he would deal with the many complications of his role as well as protecting friends and family.

Embeth Davidtz is excellent as Helen Hirsch as a Jewish maid hired by Goeth to do things for him as well as be a sick object of desire that she is repulsed by. Caroline Goodall is terrific as Schindler’s wife Emilie as a woman who would see him often though she is aware of his womanizing and such while being the one person he can always turn to for guidance. Ben Kingsley is amazing as Itzhak Stern as a Jewish accountant who serves as the film’s conscience as a good man that would run many of Schindler’s operations as well as be the one person that can connect Schindler to the people. Ralph Fiennes is brilliant as Amon Goeth as this sadistic and insane concentration camp leader who seems to have sick pleasure in killing Jews as well as being someone that is very scary as it is one of the most haunting performances in the film as well as a great breakthrough for Fiennes. Finally, there’s Liam Neeson in a riveting performance as Oskar Schindler as this man who is very flawed in his activities as he tries to make money during the war and hire the Jews to manufacture pots and pans for him where he also deals with the severity of what is happening forcing him to do something in a world where a lot of wrongs are happening.

Schindler’s List is a magnificent film from Steven Spielberg. Armed with a great ensemble cast led by Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Ben Kingsley as well as some top-notch technical work and a sumptuous score by John Williams. The film isn’t just one of Spielberg’s best films but also one of the most sobering and harrowing films about the Holocaust and what Jews from Poland had to endure during Germany’s occupation during World War II. In the end, Schindler’s List is an outstanding film from Steven Spielberg.

Steven Spielberg Films: (Duel (1971 film)) - (The Sugarland Express) - (Jaws) - (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) - (1941) - (Raiders of the Lost Ark) - (E.T. the Extraterrestrial) - (Twilight Zone: the Movie-Kick the Can) - (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) - (The Color Purple) - (Empire of the Sun) - (Always) - (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) - (Hook) - (Jurassic Park) - (The Lost World: Jurassic Park) - (Amistad) - Saving Private Ryan - (A.I. Artificial Intelligence) - (Minority Report) - Catch Me If You Can - (The Terminal) - (War of the Worlds (2005 film)) - (Munich) - (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) - (The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn) - (War Horse) - (Lincoln) - (Bridge of Spies) - (The BFG)

© thevoid99 2016

3 comments:

Wendell Ottley said...

Early on you call this movie "visceral." That is such a perfect description of this movie. Everything about it cuts right to the bone. Great movie.

Fisti said...

This is one of those movies I consider clinically perfect...it's such a technical achievement, but it's so clinical...it's so exact, like watching a documentary of sorts. It's powerful, but almost distant. I don't know, it's hard to explain. I respect the hell out of it, though.

And Fiennes for ALL the Oscars!

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-I had never seen the film in its entirety before and man, it does hit you right to the fucking bone. The scene in Auschwitz fucking scared me. I was like, "NO! NO!!".

@Fisti-It is a perfect film. I usually expect films of this long to be slowly paced or something but this wasn't the case. The pacing was phenomenal and there was never a dull moment nor a moment wasted. I also loved that it had some elements of realism but also an element of danger. Right now, it's my third favorite film by Spielberg. E.T. is #1 w/ Saving Private Ryan in second. Fiennes should've won the Oscar, no offense to Tommy Lee Jones.