Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Schindler's List

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
10 out of 10
Extras Rating:
8 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: R

Starring:
Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler
Ben Kingsley as Itzhak Stern
Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth
Caroline Goodall as Emilie Schindler
Jonathan Sagall as Poldek Pfefferberg
Embeth Davidtz as Helen Hirsch
Malgoscha Gebel as Victoria Klonowska
Shmulik Levy as Wilek Chilowicz
Mark Ivanir as Marcel Goldberg
Béatrice Macola as Ingrid
Andrzej Seweryn as Julian Scherner
Friedrich von Thun as Rolf Czurda
Krzysztof Luft as Herman Toffel
Harry Nehring as Leo John
Norbert Weisser as Albert Hujar

Special Features:
"Voices From the List" featurette

"Behind the Shoah Foundation With Steven Spielberg" featurette

Other Info:
Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby 5.1 Digital Surround Sound
DTS 5.1 Surround Sound
English, Spanish, and French Language
English, Spanish, and French Subtitles
Running Time: 3 Hours 16 Minutes

Synopsis:
This 1993 film was based on the non-fiction book by Thomas Keneally.

In the early years of WWII, the Germans invaded Poland. They took over the cities, businesses, and begin their program of the extermination of the Jews. Against this backdrop, Catholic businessman Oskar Schindler arrives in Poland to make his fortune. Schindler takes over a business of making pots and pans for the German army and exploits Jews as cheap labor. A drinker and a womanizer, Schindler is not an honorable man. However, despite his Nazi sympathies, he soon becomes horrified by the German treatment of the Jews. As he sees more and more atrocities commited against them, he realizes there is something he can do about it. Schindler begins recruiting as many Jews as possible to begin working for him. As "essential workers", they are spared from being sent away to the concentration camps. His mission is transformed from one of greed to one of humanatarian aid. Schindler begins smuggling the Jews out of the country in an effort to save them. Despite putting himself at great personal risk, he saves over 1000 Jews in the process.

"Schindler's List" is rated R for language, some sexuality and actuality violence.

The Movie:
Schindler's List was a landmark film for a number of reasons. First of all, it highlighted an important part of history. It captured a story from the Holocaust that was not widely known and opened up people's eyes again to the atrocities committed in WWII. It was one of those rare films that grabbed you and wouldn't let go. Despite featuring a horribly unpleasant subject matter, watching it seemed like an important thing to do. Viewing Schindler's List seemed like a good step in making sure that something like this wouldn't happen again. It also showed that one man really could make a difference. I still remember discussions I had with my roommates about the film in college. It's rare for a film to inspire such discussion and debate, especially that which you remember 10 year later.

The film also marked a major milestone for director Steven Spielberg. It was a return to his Jewish heritage and also represented a big cultural contribution by the director. It was a movie from him that had a major social impact besides permanently scaring people out of the water. Many saw Schindler's List as the maturing point for the director. (And, ironically, he directed the groundbreaking popcorn flick "Jurassic Park" the same year.) The film went on to sweep the Academy Awards and it won Spielberg his first Best Director Oscar.

The film also elevated Liam Neeson to superstar status. Before Schindler's List, Neeson was a prolific actor, but he had never attainted the recognition he deserved. This film earned him an Oscar nomination and put him on the map. It was well deserved, too. Schindler was not really a nice person. He cheated on his wife, exploited the Jews (at first), was greedy, a drunk, and was an opportunist and Nazi sympathizer. Yet, somehow, Neeson was able to make the character believably transform from a slimeball to a hero. It was quite a feat.

Schindler's List also put Ralph Fiennes on the map as an actor. His role as Amon Goeth is definitely one of the most disturbing ever put on screen. To this day I have a hard time seeing Fiennes in any kind of good guy role. His performance was that definitive. What makes his villain even more disturbing was the fact that his character was based on reality. Goeth was an insane butcher and that fact that everything he did really happened makes his character all the more horrific.

That is another thing that Schindler's List is noteworthy for – unflinching violence. People are shown shot and their brains blowing out. Men and women are shown naked and treated in inhuman ways. Bodies are shown thrown in stacks in graves. Children are tortured. It goes on and on and it will haunt you long after the film is over. To show anything less would do a disservice to those that actually lived through it, but at the same time it's not something enjoyable to watch. Anyone with a weak stomach should probably not see it.

Spielberg also went out of his way to make the film authentic. The costumes were all from that period. The movie was filmed in Poland at the actual locations. The scenes at Auchwitz were filmed just outside of the actual concentration camp. More importantly, though, Spielberg consulted with actual Schindler's survivors to get their eyewitness accounts of what happened. Adding to the air of authenticity is the fact that the movie was filmed entirely in black and white. This not only makes it feel like it is from the 40's, but it adds to the dark and grim tone of the film.

Schindler's List is a movie well worth checking out whether you're Jewish or not. Not only is it a landmark film, but it is an important cautionary tale and it reinforces the fact that one man really can make a difference.

The Extras:
This DVD is surprisingly short on extras. There's nothing on the making of the film. There's no commentary. In fact, there's not even a biography on the real Schindler (except for a brief text writeup). The only extras are those included below:

"Voices From the List" featurette – Shortly after Schindler's List hit screens, Spielberg established the Shoah Foundation in order to make a video record of eyewitness accounts from the Holocaust and other atrocities throughout history. This feature takes a few of those accounts from Polish Holocaust survivors and intercuts them with photos and footage from WWII. Their tales are interesting, engaging, and heart wrenching. They tell of the initial German invasion in Poland, their experiences in the ghetto, and their eventual imprisonment and liberation from the concentration camps. It's interesting to learn their mindsets as they slowly and unwittingly walked towards certain doom. Learning about their reactions to the first early signs of the Holocaust is probably the most important thing to learn from the video. A few of the survivors talk about Schindler, but he is by no means the focus of their accounts. I was amazed at how young some of the people were, but they were children during that time. Most of them also ended up being orphans. My only problem with the video was the fact that I couldn't finish it. My DVD was defective and it stopped playing before it got to the end of the hour long feature. I tried it on three different brands of players and it froze on all of them.

"Behind the Shoah Foundation With Steven Spielberg" featurette – This is a video describing what the Shoah Foundation is and what it does. It's an amazing resource and an effort well worth supporting. They discuss how the record the accounts, what they do with them, and how they are used as teaching tools.

The Bottom Line:
Schindler's List is a landmark film well worth adding to your collection.

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