Moderator / Reviewer
- Apr 4, 2017
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Schindler's List: 25th Anniversary Edition
There are good films in the world, there are great films in the world, there are legendary films in the world, and then there come along that rare and special film. That one film that comes along once every decade or so that is meant to be EXPERIENCED, rather than graded. If I had my way putting a star rating next to Schlinder’s List would be foregone as starts just don’t seem to do the movie justice. It falls into the last category of “an experience” rather than something you just watch. It is the blood, sweat, and tears of Steven Spielberg, and is lauded as probably his finest masterpiece of the holocaust, standing head and shoulders above all the rest. It displays the horror, the agony, and the sheer pain that was felt back there in ways that transcend simple movie watching. I know I may sound a little bit over the top here, but for me, Schindler’s List is one of those movies that you don’t watch out of boredom. It’s a film to be prepared for emotionally, and one that requires a sober mind to experience to the full extent that Steven Spielberg intended it to be.
It’s the start of the German invasion of Poland, and the German army has just started their oppression of the Jews. First it was simply identifying yourself with the star of David armband in order to differentiate themselves from the rest of the populace, then it was registering them in public and private, then cloistering them off from the rest of the nation, and finally rounding them up into the infamous concentration camps that would spell the end of millions of Jewish lives. Oskar Schindlerl (Liam Neeson) is a Czech businessman who has moved to Poland in order to do business and expand his fortunes There. The epitome of a business shark, Schindler begins hiring Jewish workers under the table who want to stay out of the work camp, paying them in food and other products that they can use instead of traceable cash. Taking advantage of their desperate situation he is able to turn a sizable profit by underpaying them with cheap goods, and living off the fat of the land. A sleazy womanizer, Oskar Schindler doesn’t have any moral sway one way or the other about the Jewish oppression or the war. He’s not tied to the Nazi ideology at all, and is just concerned with one thing. His status in the business world, and pure profit.
However, his profits coming to a screeching halt when a German officer named Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) comes in and sets up the Paszon concentration camp, sequestering all of Schindler’s workers for the camp. Not to be undercut, Schindler makes a deal with Herr Goeth. If the Nazi officer allows him to keep a certain percentage of the Jewish prisoners as workers, the two of them will split the profit and Goeth can terrorize the rest. Agreeing, the two men keep a continuous supply of Jewish workers for the metal factory and the two of them make money hand over first.
While Schindler is technically profiteering off of the slavery of Jews, his name has become synonymous with safety and is an underground safe haven thanks to one Itzhak Stern (Ben Kinsley), a Jew who has been funneling those Jews with low quality skills that otherwise would be executed for lack of usefulness into Schindler’s hiring pool. Oskar notices Stern’s activities at first, but doesn’t seem to mind as it keeps his worker list full. However, living in close proximity with these people has a cumulative effect on his soul. Little by little the facade of faceless workers fall away from the man’s eyes, and little by little all he can see is actual people. Even though he disagrees with the Nazi ideology, his profits come first, but soon his soul is conflicted with the pain and suffering he witnesses at the hands of the monstrous Herr Goeth. As with all things cumulative, there comes a breaking point, and in the point of Oskar Schindler it comes in the form of a little girl who walks the streets, and seen being dragged lifeless one day to a mass funeral pyre.
Schindler’s List is probably the most gut wrenching film that I have scene. It takes visible effort to control the tears in the second half of the movie, and the final scene where Schindler breaks down in tears in front of his friend Itzhak Stern, just sobbing about how he could have saved one more if he had just sold something else, is enough to bring the most hardened man to his knees. Spielberg put his heart and soul into the production, and you can see it there on screen, pulsating as if a raw nerve is exposed for all the world to see. It’s not just a holocaust movie though, in my opinion this is a story about one man. Oskar Schindler himself, and the life altering transformation that occurred that allowed him to save over 1100 souls from certain death and/or torture. Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act”. I’m sure you’ve heard the more modern adaptation of that phrase “For evil to thrive, all it takes is for good men to do nothing”. The majority of the German people were not evil. They were not Nazis, and they did not agree with what the Nazi party did. But apathy and lack of action on a grand scale allowed a small (at the time) political party to take control and the monsters in society were allowed to run free for far too long. Oskar Schindler was not a Nazi. He was not a “bad” man in that he wanted Jews to suffer. Instead he didn’t act until it was almost too late. Watching him transform from a man of inaction to a man of action is incredible, and Liam Neeson is no less stunning that Steven Spielberg is for creating the role.
It is blatantly obvious from the film’s commentaries and documents that Spielberg himself has written that Schindler’s List was not just another movie for the director. It was a piece of his soul, his past, and his visual desire for the public to know what happened, and to warn them to never let it happen again. The acting was impeccable, and Spielberg’s casting just as impeccable. Lima Neeson was a relative unknown at the time, a boxer turned actor who was given the role of a lifetime, and he delivered on that front. Ralph Fiennes was already established and while he’s had a great time playing villains (Voldemort, duh), his portrayal of the evil Amon Goeth is riveting. The audience loathes the man with every fiber of their being, and his greasy and slimy portrayal of evil is mesmerizing to watch (even if you want to vomit). Ben Kinsley is fantastic as always, and that single scene between him and Liam Neeson at the end is one that sets your hairs on end.
Rated R for language, some sexuality and actuality violence
4K Video: Video:
• NEW Schindler's List: 25 Years Later - Featurette
• NEW USC Shoah Foundation Story with Steven Spielberg (2018)
• Voices from the List - Featurette
• Let Their Testimonies Speak - Stronger Than Hate
• About IWitness (2018)
Schindler’s List is an epic film that really does deserve (in my opinion) all of the accolades and awards that it has received over the years. It truly is a film that is experienced rather than just watched and I have treasured my Blu-ray of the film for the last 5 years. The boost to 4K UHD is well with it in the video department and the new Atmos mix is a nice small upgrade over the 5.1 mix for sure. The extras on the 20th anniversary edition were always rather slim for such a great film, and the addition of new extras for this release makes it all the sweeter. Coming from someone who has double dipped on this film no less than 3 times, the 4K UHD release is well worth buying again. A must get.
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kinsley, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagall, Embeth Davidtz, Shmuel Levy, Mark Ivanir
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by: Steven Zaillian
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, HEVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core) Spanish, French DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Runtime: 196 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: December 18th, 2018
Recommendation: Must Own