Schindler's List

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Schindler's List (1993, Steven Spielberg)



Schindler's List will forever be Spielberg's great serious film. I discount any notion that because Spielberg is Jewish, that he has some sublime connection to the material. People who suffered during the Holocaust have a connection to the material. Also people who's direct relatives suffered during the period. I want to make it clear that any praise of the film regarding Spielberg's special position is silly. I have Irish ancestory, but that doesn't qualify me any more than an Italian to make a movie about the Irish Potato Famine. I wasn't there. Spielberg wasn't there during the Holocaust.
I enjoy the stylistic touch of shooting it in black and white. I think more films should be shot in this method. It does give it a sense of age and place. World War II is afterall a war which has been forever viewed in black and white, whether through actual footage and photographs or old classic films.
Despite the excellent raw first half of the film in which we see Schindler (Liam Neeson) gather up Jews for his factory and the massacre of Krakow ghetto, it slowly descends into Spielberg sentimentality. I did appreciate not knowing the motivations of the Schindler character who starts out as an opportunist looking for cheap Jewish labor in the war, to penniless savior. There are hints at his change. It's done very subtly and masterfully.
The other main character in the film is Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) who murders without thought. His character is a bit too evil for me in that Spielberg way of seeing things in shades of black and white. Clearly Schindler is flawed but in Spielberg's mind he is a white character because he does good. Goeth is a black character. He does bad. This is one of my main complaints against the film. Despite their dealings with one another, the audience is lured into cheering when we see Goeth hanging in the last scenes of the film. Never do we stop to question him or feel sympathy for his nature. He is a character straight out of Billy Budd. Claggart. He hates because he hates himself. That is why he cannot pardon, because he cannot pardon himself. Spielberg quickly gives us a glimpse at this and then tosses it aside. Simply put, the Nazis are the bad guys, the Jews are the good guys, and there's a good German and a bad German.
The girl in the red dress, which remains a touchstone of the film, provoked no emotion out of me. In real life she lived. In Spielberg's world she dies. The film drags on with the scenes of Schindler's Jews going back and forth on the trains. The ending of the film is embarrasing with Schindler's breakdown, "I could have saved one more." At this point William's musical score hits its climax. I also dislike Spielberg's choice to show the actual survivors with their actor counterparts putting stones on Schindler's grave. Overkill to a message already hammered home. Schindler's List shows promise during the first half, but ultimately it dives into sap. With Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List behind his belt, Spielberg seems to connect with World War II as its great modern storyteller, placing himself no doubt just behind Schindler and Eisenhower in scale of importance.
I much prefer The Pianist directed by Roman Polanski who was actually offered Schindler's List to direct, but turned it down. Polanski's film is much more touching without being sentimental and Polanski luckily doesn't see the world in the "black and white" shades that Spielberg looks through.

Grade: B-
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Seems like a pretty negative review for a relatively high rating.
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Seems like a pretty negative review for a relatively high rating.
B- is above average. It was definitely an above average film, but I don't think it's great as many people seem to.

I did focus on things I enjoyed. Liam Neeson, shooting in black and white, most of the first half of the film.



I can agree with you there. I don't love the movie. I'm not sure I could ever love a movie about the holocaust. It's a powerful movie to say the least. Does it deserve to be so high on the AFI list? I don't think so, but it is.

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A real good powerful movie about World War 2.

I give it a 5/5 rating.
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I honestly prefer not to say one word because you're obviously baiting me, but I'll just say that your personal animosity towards Spielberg is clear since you spend half of the review of Schindler's List criticizing Spielberg as some simple-minded boob who believes that he's a Messiah, and I honestly don't understand how anyone short of a "Claggart-type character" could make such an interpretation. You twist your own personal hatred for the man into some kind of "insight" into how he thinks and makes movies. Then you want to make sure that somehow people always "cheer" at a Spielberg movie? I've seen the film many, many times, at the theatre, at school and at home, and I've never seen or heard one person cheer at all during the film.

This is a one-off because this fish is too smart to take the next line of bait.
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RIP www.moviejustice.com 2002-2010
I can agree with you there. I don't love the movie. I'm not sure I could ever love a movie about the holocaust. It's a powerful movie to say the least. Does it deserve to be so high on the AFI list? I don't think so, but it is.

Whatareyougonnado?

Night and Fog was a very good documentary about the Holocaust with some very disturbing images. Most films about the subject seem to use that documentary as a reference point. They even showed clips from it in Judgement at Nuremberg.


I enjoy The Pianist very much.

Also The Search, but that's not really about the holocaust so much as a young child survivor. I don't know if any film has ever been just about the holocaust.

The Pawnbroker is a great movie that deals with the long term psychological after effects.



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I honestly prefer not to say one word because you're obviously baiting me, but I'll just say that your personal animosity towards Spielberg is clear since you spend half of the review of Schindler's List criticizing Spielberg as some simple-minded boob who believes that he's a Messiah, and I honestly don't understand how anyone short of a "Claggart-type character" could make such an interpretation. You twist your own personal hatred for the man into some kind of "insight" into how he thinks and makes movies. Then you want to make sure that somehow people always "cheer" at a Spielberg movie? I've seen the film many, many times, at the theatre, at school and at home, and I've never seen or heard one person cheer at all during the film.

This is a one-off because this fish is too smart to take the next line of bait.

I am no more baiting you than you bait me whenever you comment on a David Lych film negatively. We just don't agree on certain films or filmmakers.

As far as the word "cheer" goes I was talking about how people internally cheer. Of course they're not going to cheer aloud. Next time I'll be sure to paint that more clear the way a Spielberg movie spells things out.

And I don't buy into the idea that I can somehow seperate an "auteur" film from the director. Of course Spielberg was also the producer. It was his baby. Do you expect me not to talk about Scorsese when looking at Mean Streets or not to talk about Polanski when looking at The Pianist?

I know you think I'm a Claggart type character because I dislike many of Spielberg's films.

I think Schindler's List is a good film, but it has things in it I strongly dislike.

As far as Spielberg goes I do enjoy several of his movies. Duel and Catch Me If You Can both get an "A" grade from me.



Schindler's List (5/5)
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This is a supurb and moving film set in WW2 and I cant understand how a small minority who think it is a bad movie as it is a cinamatic great. It has so much depth to the movie and the whole film is well executed, no punn intended lol
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Schindler's list is not an accurate historical "retelling" of what actually happened, it is first and foremost a Hollywood movie, who's main aim is entertainment and subtle manipulation.
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Interesting review Viddy... not sure I totally agree with your thoughts on the lack of connection Spielberg has with the Holocaust though... because, given the fact he is Jewish, he more than likely had relatives who were there... which, to me, puts him in a closer relationship than some to understand the horrors of the Holocaust...
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Yeah, I believe so. There's a fairly short article from 1993 called "Steven Spielberg Faces the Holocaust." It says that "[Spielberg's] family had direct ties to the Holocaust: relatives died in Poland and Ukraine."

Anyway, I don't think such ties are necessary for Spielberg to have a "connection" to the material. Seems an odd sentiment, really -- would anyone say the same thing to an African-American who made a film about slavery, or a Native American who made a film about the founding of America? I may be fair to say he does not necessarily have a special connection to the material, but I don't see why anyone would suggest he definitely doesn't. Being Jewish, and having even distant relatives who were involved, must have an effect that a non-Jewish individual can not expect to entirely identify with.
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I get what you're saying, Viddy, RE: The Speilberg Touch. To me it just plays out as optimism in the face of the horrific but I really can see how it might grate on someone's nerves particularly considering some of the content of the film.
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Yeah, I believe so. There's a fairly short article from 1993 called "Steven Spielberg Faces the Holocaust." It says that "[Spielberg's] family had direct ties to the Holocaust: relatives died in Poland and Ukraine."

Anyway, I don't think such ties are necessary for Spielberg to have a "connection" to the material. Seems an odd sentiment, really -- would anyone say the same thing to an African-American who made a film about slavery, or a Native American who made a film about the founding of America? I may be fair to say he does not necessarily have a special connection to the material, but I don't see why anyone would suggest he definitely doesn't. Being Jewish, and having even distant relatives who were involved, must have an effect that a non-Jewish individual can not expect to entirely identify with.
I agree it is an odd sentiment, but people make it all the time, or rather critics, reviewers, and audiences do. I do disagree with thinking someone needs to have a personal connection to the material to make greatness.

Did Ridley Scott ever go to Los Angeles 2019 when he made Blade Runner?
Did Sergio Leone gundown bandits in the Old West before he made Once Upon a Time in the West?

Directors clearly don't need connections, however when they do a film's experience can be heightened. The Pianist for example.

My critique is this... in comments and reviews I've read people give the movie praise in part because Spielberg was Jewish. I think this is a void reason to hail the film. Unless he suffered during the Holocaust, it doesn't make sense.

Spielberg may have had relative ties to people who did suffer, but did he know them, did he see them often? Was he close to them?

I have family ties to people who were coal miners, but I didn't know them, nor was I close to them. Now I could make a movie about coal miners? Yes. Should I use the fact that I have had family members who were coal miners as a promotion/praise tool for the film? Unless I was close to them, no.

That's the point I was trying to make. Judge the film on its own merrits, but I see a lot of reviewers praising the film because Spielberg made it and he was Jewish.

And I disagree with the claim that just being Jewish connects him with the material. Technically it does, but realistically it doesn't. For example I don't feel that Spike Lee is anymore entitled to make a movie about slavery because he's black and blacks were slaves than a white person.

Spike Lee was never a slave. Spike Lee never was close to anyone who was a slave.

Now if Spike Lee wants to make a movie about racism in Brooklyn during the 80's and use his experiences as a tool for promotion. That's fine. He was there. He experienced it.


I think people do this "personal connection" sort of thing all the time. For example someone may be talking about homosexuality and make the claim, "I know gay people," as a basis for their authority on the topic. Hey that's great... you know gay people. But you youself are not gay and you yourself have not had to deal with the pressures of that and breaking it to your family.

Basically it comes down to empathy vs. sympathy.

Spielberg can sympathize for the victims of the Holocaust just like anyone use. But neither Spielberg, nor myself, or a large part of the film's audience can empathize with it.



Spielberg can sympathize for the victims of the Holocaust just like anyone use. But neither Spielberg, nor myself, or a large part of the film's audience can empathize with it.
You've got it the wrong way round. Empathize means to intellectually understand someone's feelings. For example, if I knew someone whose parent had died, I could emphasise with them as I could imagine how horrible it would be for me. However sympathy is sharing a common feeling. Someone else whose parent had died would be able to sympathize with the person I know because they have experienced that feeling directly.
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