Steven Spielberg had a banner year in 1993. He scored one of his biggest commercial hits that summer with the mega-hit Jurassic Park, but it was the artistic and critical triumph of Schindler’s List that Spielberg called “the most satisfying experience of my career.” Adapted from the best-selling book by Thomas Keneally and filmed in Poland with an emphasis on absolute authenticity, Spielberg’s masterpiece ranks among the greatest films ever made about the Holocaust during World War II. It’s a film about heroism with an unlikely hero at its…
Steven Spielberg had a banner year in 1993. He scored one of his biggest commercial hits that summer with the mega-hit Jurassic Park, but it was the artistic and critical triumph of Schindler’s List that Spielberg called “the most satisfying experience of my career.” Adapted from the best-selling book by Thomas Keneally and filmed in Poland with an emphasis on absolute authenticity, Spielberg’s masterpiece ranks among the greatest films ever made about the Holocaust during World War II. It’s a film about heroism with an unlikely hero at its center—Catholic war profiteer Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who risked his life and went bankrupt to save more than 1,000 Jews from certain death in concentration camps.
By employing Jews in his crockery factory manufacturing goods for the German army, Schindler ensures their survival against terrifying odds. At the same time, he must remain solvent with the help of a Jewish accountant (Ben Kingsley) and negotiate business with a vicious, obstinate Nazi commandant (Ralph Fiennes) who enjoys shooting Jews as target practice from the balcony of his villa overlooking a prison camp. Schindler’s List gains much of its power not by trying to explain Schindler’s motivations, but by dramatizing the delicate diplomacy and determination with which he carried out his generous deeds.
As a drinker and womanizer who thought nothing of associating with Nazis, Schindler was hardly a model of decency; the film is largely about his transformation in response to the horror around him. Spielberg doesn’t flinch from that horror, and the result is a film that combines remarkable humanity with abhorrent inhumanity—a film that functions as a powerful history lesson and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the context of a living nightmare. —Jeff Shannon
Barnes and Noble
Although he will forever be identified with pop culture classics such as Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Spielberg has never made a film greater than this searing drama about a Nazi industrialist who saved more than 1,000 Jews from certain death in concentration camps during World War II. Broadly based on the book by Australian writer Thomas Keneally, Schindler’s List gets underway in 1939 after Hitler’s army conquers Poland. Nazi supporter Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson, delivering the standout performance of his career) arranges to staff a major company with unpaid Jews ultimately destined for extermination, among them accountant Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), who becomes his right-hand man. The initially mercenary Schindler gradually becomes attuned to the plight of his workers and arranges to employ nearly 1,000 Jews in his crockery plant—an effort that requires his careful handling of ghastly Commandant Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes), who runs the forced-labor camp housing the doomed people. For this film Spielberg eschews his customary storytelling techniques, using black-and-white film for a gritty look and shooting much of the footage with handheld cameras, documentary style. Period detail is replicated with astonishing accuracy, and you’ll get the sense of being right there alongside the characters. The film is extremely long—well over three hours—but it unfolds with such urgency that you’re never conscious of its length. Neeson is absolutely sensational as the towering industrialist whose innate humanity eventually comes to the fore, and Fiennes, then a virtual newcomer, is sublimely odious as the amoral labor-camp commander. Crafted to perfection and absolutely seamless in its presentation, Schindler’s List is a truly unforgettable movie, and the crowning achievement of this generation’s most successful filmmaker. Ed Hulse
Because he’s long been stereotyped by the rousing neo-romantic adventure scores for the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Jurassic Park franchises, it’s easy to forget that composer John Williams is hardly idiomatically challenged. When Steven Spielberg gratifyingly used the clout of his enormous commercial success to produce and direct this brave Holocaust drama, his longtime musical collaborator used the opportunity to display both the depth and maturity of his musical gifts and training, producing a score with sad, evocative melodies frequently…
Schindler’s List is a remarkable work of fiction based on the true story of German industrialist and war profiteer, Oskar Schindler, who, confronted with the horror of the extermination camps, gambled his life and fortune to rescue 1,300 Jews from the gas chambers.
Working with the actual testimony of Schindler’s Jews, Thomas Keneally artfully depicts the courage and shrewdness of an unlikely savior, a man who is a flawed mixture of hedonism and decency and who, in the presence of unutterable evil, transcends the limits of his own humanity.