CLASSIC REVIEW: Schindler’s List (1993)

Theatrical Release poster - Universal Pictures

Theatrical Release poster – Universal Pictures

The following is a classic review of Schindler’s List, a Steven Spielberg film. There are spoilers in this review.

Schindler’s List tells the story of how Oskar Schindler (played by Liam Neeson), a German businessman, saved more than a thousand of Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. This review will be a little bit different. I’ll review this film, by explaining why I didn’t see it until 2016. There are spoilers in this review, so I will not hold anything back.

One of the things I always wondered about, was why my father would never watch Schindler’s List with me. He has always been intrigued by films set during World War II, but for some unknown reason he would never watch it with me. He has always told me that he had seen it, but he has no interest in ever seeing it again.

I always brought it up whenever he wanted to watch a movie with me, and there was no discussion: he was not watching Schindler’s List again. Just yesterday I rented it, and he still wouldn’t watch a single scene in the film. Now I’ve finally seen it, after years of waiting, and I think I know why he never wants to watch it again. This might be the saddest film I’ve ever seen.

My dad hates the story of The Little Match Girl. It isn’t that he dislikes Hans Christian Andersen’s work, but he hates that one story. Now, why am I saying this? This isn’t just me telling what my dad likes and dislikes, but there are scenes in this film that made me understand why he has no interest in ever seeing it again, and I see how it reminds him of that story.

It is impossible to be unaffected by the scenes with the little girl in the red coat. When Oskar Schindler sees the massacre in the Kraków ghetto from afar, and spots the little girl in the red coat, the entire film changes. I’m really impressed with how they handle color in this film. It is, of course, in black and white, but whenever they choose to use color anyway, it is impressively powerful.

Some might say that it’s just in black and white because it takes place back in the day, but another way to look at it is that Spielberg shows us the world of the second World War in black and white, to show the black and white morality of that time. Whenever you show color, you do it for a reason.

The little girl’s red coat is a way of forcing the audience to pay attention to a single person. It represents the loss of innocence, but the little girl in the red coat also works as the one beacon of light, or color, the one hope. She has to survive, she has to make it through. You are just as desperate for her to make it as Oskar is when he sees the massacre.

And then, some time later, comes the moment. In a scene that is already really tough to watch, Oskar sees the little girl in the red coat on a wagon. Dead. Lifeless. It is a crushing, and very emotional moment. The image of the little girl in the red coat on the wagon hits you like a ton of bricks.

Schindler’s List isn’t a very short film. At about three hours in length, it is quite something. The film takes you on a tough and emotional journey, and, if you’re anything like me, at the end of that journey you will be sobbing. In what might be the most emotional scene ever put to film, Oskar Schindler, at the very end of the film, breaks down when he realizes how many more people he could have saved if he hadn’t been as blind as he once was, or if he hadn’t been so wasteful with his money for so long.

Liam Neeson gives the performance of a lifetime in this film. I doubt anything he ever does will top his performance as Oskar Schindler, and if you, at any point during this review, question his greatness in this film, then go online and rewatch the scene of Schindler breaking down.

Schindler, overwhelmed with sadness and grief, drops the ring he has been given. He frantically searches for the ring on the ground. He nervously laughs when talking about how wasteful he has been, and it makes him break down how unimportant money had been to him, and how now that wastefulness caused more people their lives. He, understandably, starts to sob.

Liam Neeson is as perfect in the role of Oskar Schindler as Sir Ben Kingsley is as Itzhak Stern, who has been called the conscience of Schindler. Kingsley is a wonderful actor, and I don’t think anyone could’ve played Stern better than him. Ralph Fiennes delivers a great performance as well as the awful Amon Göth. Schindler is a great protagonist assisted by a terrifying antagonist, Göth.

There are sequences in this film that are unwatchable, but at the same time it is almost tough to look away from that sequence. It is incredibly well-directed, well-shot, and well-acted, and the film is assisted by a John Williams score that is distressing, haunting, and beautiful at the same time.

The film ends with an epilogue, in color, showing real life Schindlerjuden with the actors and actresses that portray them placing stones on Schindler’s grave. Finally, we see Liam Neeson place a pair of roses on the grave. I thought this was a very bold choice that Spielberg made. The film already feels very real, but this solidifies the film’s connection with reality, and is much more powerful than just showing pictures of the people the actors played.

Steven Spielberg is one of the best directors of all-time. He is an amazing storyteller that people expect the best from. He has made many of the most amazing films ever made. To say that one film is his masterpiece sounds a bit odd, as a lot of his films could be regarded as masterpieces. But if I were to single out one film that is the most complete achievement of his career, then it would be Schindler’s List.

10 out of 10

– I’m Jeffrey Rex

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