What do you say about Schindler’s List?
What can you say?
It is an epic and intensely depressing film. Although it displays many minor historical inaccuracies in what is otherwise a true story, no doubt its depressing nature stems from how closely it resembles the World War II reality in so many ways.
Oskar Schindler: What if I got here five minutes later? Then where would I be?
If nothing else, it can easily be said that Spielberg did the story justice. His first ever ‘Best Director’ Oscar was therefore justly deserved.
Similar to ‘The Pianist‘ (which followed almost ten years later), the film gives a grim and violent perspective of the “cleansing” of the Polish population – but in a different city. The closing credits tell us that businessman Oskar Schindler’s lifesaving actions resulted in more than 6,000 Jewish descendents, while (in 1993) there were fewer than 4,000 Jews left alive in Poland (that figure is more like 50,000 today), with 6 million killed Worldwide during the War. It is unfathomable.
There are, of course, several particularly moving scenes in the film. While violence abounds, for me the most horrifying scene is when Schindler is walking down the street through what appears to be snow. Though the black and white film deceived me briefly, it didn’t take long to work out that it was not, in fact, snow… but ashes. Then, of course, it didn’t take long to work out where those ashes had come from.
The idea of walking down the street through the ashes of incinerated corpses was truly horrifying to me. In my life, the closest I have ever come to that was being covered in the ashes of Easter Show fireworks when the wind changed. I can barely wrap my sheltered little mind around what it would be like to live through such atrocities. Or even to know that my parents or grandparents had lived through such atrocities (or, indeed, committed them). The whole period is a tremendous stain on the history of humanity.
Scrolling through the imdb facts after the film, the one that stuck out to me most was probably this one:
In reality it was not Itzhak Stern who helped Oskar Schindler put the list together, but Marcel Goldberg. Many survivors who speak of Goldberg do so with disdain, as he was unscrupulous in deciding who ended up on the list, reportedly accepting bribes from some Survivors, taking names off the list to add theirs instead.
I’m kind of glad the movie completely ignored this point. It may have been just too depressing to bear. There remain, therefore, a few scenes of beauty, love and hope. Although the original intention was to symbolise the wider world’s ignorance of the Holocaust as it occurred, to me “the girl in the red coat” symbolised hope, and with her death came the death of so much hope in this film. In the face of such a bleak history all we really have left is the hope that it will never, ever, happen again, and I think it was important for this film to give at least a ray of that hope for us to hold onto. Thankfully, it did that.
Beautiful was the artful use of black & white in this film to the point where you could swear the whole thing had been filmed in full colour. Beautiful, too, was the scene in which Schindler fumbles and drops the ring he is given by the grateful workers in his factory. Finally, of course, there is the parade of real holocaust survivors during the closing credits, which gives a chilling added authenticity to the story.
But, if that is still all too bleak for you, there is also this charming little factoid:
One of two Best Picture Oscar winners to show a child jumping into the waste pond under a toilet. The other is Slumdog Millionaire.
Have you seen ‘Schindler’s List’? Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments below.