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USA 1993
Directed by
Steven Spielberg
195 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Schindler's List

Although over-long and the ending is a rather florid example of Spielberg's sentimentalizing proclivities Schindler's List is a superb production that potently brings home the terror that was The Holocaust.

Based on a novel by Thomas Keneally it tells the "true" story of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a  Nazi-era opportunist who in 1939 after the Nazis have invaded Poland with silent Jewish financial backing takes over a Kracow factory producing goods for the German army.  As the situation worsens and the Nazis become increasingly committed to the Final Solution, Schindler undergoes a moral turn-around and ingratiates himself with them, notably the commander of the Plaszow Forced Labor Camp, Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes), a particularly nasty piece of work. Eventually he saves 1100 Jews from extermination.

Filmed in black-and-white with meticulous attention to detail, as a historical re-creation Schindler's List attains an impressive sense of realism (although the Polish camp detainees look unconvincingly well-fed). Its main shortcoming is that much of the lengthy running time is given over to a unilateral depiction of the vicious mistreatment of the Poles, largely by snapshot stories of various minor characters. Balancing this the principal dramatic focus is given over to a simplistic good/evil contrast between the self-assured Schindler and the psychopathic Goeth. Both actors, however, acquit themselves extremely well, Fiennes chilling as an archetypal murderous Nazi, Neeson as an indefatigably charming hero, whilst Ben Kingsley serves up a dose of little man piety in the shape of Schindler’s accountant. It’s all rather over-drawn by scriptwriter Steve Zaillian but nevertheless Spielberg's realization is compelling. In this he is superbly aided by Janusz Kaminski's cinematography and an unusually restrained John Williams orchestral score.

The film won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.




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