There are times when a film appears on the cinema landscape and manages to present a powerful story. A story so remarkable and forceful in its subject matter that it takes a hold of you, shakes you, then leaves you to comprehend its aftermath. Such films must be celebrated and cherished by all due to the fact that they are able to make us so emotionally committed to every character and scene. Schindler’s List is such a film. A motion picture that I cannot help but truly admire. Blessed with an inventive director, a trio of exceptional acting performances, and an exquisite visual look, Schindler’s List is quite a haunting and unforgettable experience.
Directed by one of cinema’s most acclaimed film masters, Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List stars Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Ben Kingsley. The film tells the story of Oskar Schindler (Neeson) who grows concerned over the wellbeing of the Jewish workers under his supervision after being witness to their cruel oppression by the Nazis. Schindler’s List is a historical biopic that runs for around three hours and fifteen minutes.
One must start with the filmmaker responsible for this phenomenal film, Steve Spielberg. I have always been a big fan of Spielberg’s films ever since I was first exposed to his masterful pieces of cinema. However, what he has managed to accomplish with Schindler’s List is different than any of his other films, due to the subject matter. The film, artistically presented in black and white, has long been a personal project of Spielberg’s and it is clear to see why. Being Jewish himself, filming this motion picture must have been one of the hardest things he has ever done in his lifetime. His passion, care, and sensitivity are clear in every scene and every moment of Schindler’s List. There is so much love in this film, despite the harrowing issue at hand, that the viewer becomes emotionally gripped. That Spielberg has been able to do that without being preachy is a profound and commendable achievement.
Out of all the scenes that Steven Spielberg delivers in Schindler’s List, a particular sequence is elevated to greatness. Poland is in the midst of a horrific and ruthless occupation by the Nazis. As a new rule, the Third Reich soldiers force all the Jews to leave their homes, where they have lived for generations, and head towards a ghetto, created by the Nazis to control the Jews like cattle. Men, women, and children are dragged out of their homes with all the belongings they can muster.
Suddenly, in the midst of all this chaos, a young girl appears. She stumbles out of a house wearing a red dress, the only spot of color seen after nearly halfway through the black-and-white film’s runtime. The girl walks around the street not caring for any of the confusion around her, her innocence and purity beaming through the screen. The Nazi soldiers try to guide her towards the queue heading to the ghetto but she somehow finds her way to an abandoned home, where she escapes danger, temporarily.
The fact that Spielberg makes this artistic choice in that particular moment is so powerful and effective that any viewer will surely succumb to its force and beauty. It is without a doubt one of cinema’s most extraordinary scenes.
Those scenes with the girl in the red dress are great scenes not only because of Steven Spielberg’s supervision but also due to cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who would collaborate with Spielberg on a number of future films. As a first project, I am sure he could not have thought of a more challenging motion picture than Schindler’s List. What he manages to do in this film is something truly astonishing. Kaminski turns the most traumatic scenes in the film into beautiful ones due to his expertise in choosing the correct lighting, camera placement, and overall visual look that these scenes require. He is surely one of my favorite cinematographers.
Schindler’s List’s status as one of cinema’s most important and outstanding works is also thanks to three magnetic performances: Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler; Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth; and Ben Kingsley as Itzhak Stern.
One must start with Liam Neeson and his performance as the lead character Oskar Schindler. It is definitely his strongest role in his entire career and will remain so, I think. Oskar is a businessman looking to get the most profit out of Germany’s war with the rest of Europe. He is a self-centered individual whose only concern is how to make his wealth grow greater and faster. However, after witnessing multiple instances of torture and cruelty by the Nazi regime, he is determined to do what he can to save as much lives as possible, without being detected. I really admire how Neeson is able to give off a performance full of heart and doing so in a manner that seems effortless, even majestic. A delightful performance.
Standing in the way of Oskar Schindler and his attempt to rescue the Jewish population in Poland from their plight is the ruthless Nazi officer Amon Goeth, played by Ralph Fiennes. This is perhaps the most villainous role I have seen Fiennes perform. He is completely heartless and coldblooded as the Nazi officer who oversees the newly-built camp that separates the Jews from the rest of Poland. I have come across many iconic villains since I have started my love-affair with cinema but only a few have come close to giving me the chills as Fiennes’s performance does in Schindler’s List. It is a haunting and evocative performance that the viewer will never forget, in my opinion.
Despite all the problems that ensue, Itzhak Stern is nonetheless employed by Oskar Schindler to handle all the finances and accounting of his factory, and he is played to absolute perfection by the amazing Ben Kingsley. As one of the many intellectual Jews who have been hard done by the Nazis and their brutal occupation of Poland, Stern shows a lot of mental strength in trying to keep going and making use of all the opportunities that come his way, how little and sporadic they might be. As the soft-spoken and straightforward Stern, Kingsley is instantly compelling. He chews up every scene he is in which says a lot especially with such a strong cast alongside him. Ben Kingsley is one of those actors who always seems to be able to surprise me with how easy he transforms into the roles he chooses. He is one of cinema’s best character actors.
There are not many motion pictures that leave the viewer in such a state of utter shock as Schindler’s List does. Steven Spielberg tells one of life’s most heroic stories set in the middle of the dramatic backdrop of World War II with a lot of care and focus. That personal touch from Spielberg is what makes his films such profound pieces of cinema. His ability to guide a distinguished cast and present breathtaking scenes are also presented to great effect. The result is a film that keeps the viewer enthralled from the first scene until the touching ending. Even with a tough subject matter, Schindler’s List is a rich motion picture that everyone should experience as it has so much to offer and say about the state of human relations. A film that is as perfect as can be.
Steven Spielberg (Great Director Profile)
- Liam Neeson (as Oskar Schindler)
- Ralph Fiennes (as Amon Goeth)
- Ben Kingsley (as Itzhak Stern)
3 hours and 15 minutes
Biopic / Drama