Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Weekend Watch: Schindler’s List

My very first attempt at writing a serious, full fledged film review, starting with the unsurpassed ‘Schindler’s List’ – which I watched last Sunday.

Go and watch this one, it’s more than worth it!! Hope the review makes you do it…

Steven Spielberg is a man to reckon with and is at the height of his legendary powers in the stunning ‘Schindler’s list’, a 1993 classic that set the benchmark for all movies of its genre. A powerful visual statement on the life and the times of the Jews under the Nazi regime, it minces no frames in showing the brutalities and atrocities committed in the name of racial superiority.

It is a story of the German catholic industrialist Oskar Schindler, who begins to earn great returns by exploiting the free Jew labor, but finds an awakening of his conscience when he sees that his factory is the only hope of survival for the Jews and begins to buy as many of them as possible using all his wealth and contacts, with competent help from his able accountant Stern. By the end of the war, he manages to save about 1100 of them before he has to flee for his safety from the Allied forces.

The movie begins by showing how Oskar cleverly manages to get his voice and authority established in the upper corridors of power. He befriends German officials using the razzle dazzle of lavish parties, beautiful women, exotic food and wine and extravagant presents. Using the gift of gab and charm, he opens up doors of opportunity and wealth ceaselessly. With an estranged wife and a non existent family life, Schindler has his crockery factory, a clever accountant and a few inconsequential flings, to fill his time. He smartly recruits Jews from the labor camps, free of charge and is soon on his way to being both immensely rich and powerful. However as the time passes by, he can’t shut his eyes to the atrocities committed against the Jews: as they are looted, killed, mutilated, evacuated, enslaved and tortured mercilessly. He painfully realizes that the only way that he can save the Jews is by employing them in his company and proceeds to buy them from the corrupt German officials. The war ends and the surviving Jews are liberated, but Oskar has to escape lest he be captured by the victorious armies.

The well-scripted movie is not only a cinematic masterpiece but a fitting tribute to the man who single handedly saved more than a thousand lives. The cinematography (black and white) is flawless and unparalleled, with each frame delicately composed to bring out the drama and the character of the scene. In one of the most brilliant scenes of the movie (there are countless others too), while Oskar watches from over a hill, as the Jews are being paraded and shot, a little girl catches his eye as she moves around the city to escape the Nazi wrath. This girl is ingeniously shown in color, against the black-and-white imagery of the movie and is later shown again, lying amongst the corpses as Oskar watches the exhuming and the consequent mass funeral of the dead Jews. A master stroke delivered with panache that stays with you as the most hauntingly memorable scenes ever seen.

The graphic violence is so riveting and real that it makes you wonder if such inhumanity is possible, and sends shivers down your spine when you realize that it did happen, not very long ago. As I watched the movie, the terms like ‘Holocaust’, ‘Ghetto’, which till then were just words from the history textbook, assumed their true meaning and I gaped with increasing horror at the images that spelt 'heinous' and 'horrendous', in bold capitals. There were scenes of cold blooded murders, mass shoot outs, point blank head shots, children and women scampering to hide in the closets and secret passageways, scores of people paraded towards the gas chambers, women shorn of their hair and disrobed, men and women closeted in huge wagons like animals and sprayed with jets of water through hoses, the cruel German in-charge taking random shots at the camp from his balcony gunning down innocent people for the heck of it and so much more. Words fall short as I try to describe what only the images can convey in their entirety; such is the craft and the art of this movie.

At the heart of this engrossing story is the charismatic Liam Neeson, donning the character of the war profiteer Oskar Schindler, towering both literally and figuratively in the most powerful performance of his career. Ralph Fiennes, as Amon Goethe, the psychotic, sadist, alcoholic German in-charge who shoots Jew prisoners at will and tortures his house maid for the pleasure of it, eerily sketches one of the most hated characters to be portrayed onscreen. Ben Kingsley as the dependable accountant makes his character relatable with the ease of a pro and essays it with all the idiosyncrasies, fears and helplessness intact. Other characters in the movie do not have as much screen time for them to be memorable but they do play their parts quite effectively.

The real hero of the movie though is Steven Spielberg. At the end of the movie, when the credits started appearing, I felt like kneeling down in reverence when his name appeared. The man is an institution in himself and it is unbelievable when you realize that this guy with no formal training in filmmaking, towers above all as the greatest filmmaker that ever lived. I can go on and on about his mastery but one will only truly appreciate his genius when one sees the ‘Schindler’s List’, a movie that is bound to bleed your soul as you come to terms with the heinous crimes and inhuman suffering, perpetrated for the sake of hate.

For those interested in knowing more about the real Oskar Schindler, Amon Goethe and facts and figures from the Holocaust, including the original Schindler's list, do visit the following link


Joshua Victor said...


Pretty neat review. You've excellently captured the gist of the movie. I must say you have beautifully portrayed or dileneated the movie with words.

Just one small errata...the Germans tortured the Jews because of 'racial' superiority, not 'religious' superiority.


Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!