Who would have thought that it would be a master of fantasy like Steven Spielberg who would direct what might be the most wrenching film ever made? It took the Jewish-American filmmaker the worst horror story in history to escape his Peter Pan complex and get the recognition he deserved. His amazing film follows the path of Oskar Schindler, a complex, flawed man who eventually found his way to redemption. But the movie is about much more than that. It’s an almost documentary-like depiction of the Holocaust, which caused the death of millions of innocent Jewish people just because of the intolerance of a few men and the submission of so many others who were “following orders”. Schindler is one of those who had the courage to disagree, and he saved many, many lives in consequence.
Technically, the film couldn’t be better. Spielberg’s passionate direction always hits the right note, from the gorgeous black & white photography to the impressive art direction, cinematography and what might be John Williams’ most moving score. The film lasts a little more than three hours, but it never seems long: it’s always riveting. Liam Neeson too does grandiose work, embodying Oskar Schindler through all his contradictions but, mostly, in his virtues. I mean, Schindler was a mysterious man. Even the film can’t explain why this German Nazi factory owner, a greedy, corrupted man who never had enough drinking, gambling and womanizing, how could such a flawed man risk everything he had to save some of the people everyone around him deemed inferior. On the other end is Ralph Fiennes, who’s terrifyingly convincing as a Nazi officer as dumb as he is evil, abusing his power and killing people for no reason.
More than being a brilliant film, “Schindler’s List” is essential as a history lesson. World War II is soon gonna be a thing from another century, another millennium even, but it should never be forgotten or it might, God help us, be repeated. The film takes us through what the victims have gone through. Being restricted to living in ghettos, suffering the hatred of the Nazis, being robbed and abused and even separated from your relatives and friends. As if it wasn’t horrible enough, the Jews from Eastern Europe were then taken to concentration camps, first to work as slaves and eventually to be exterminated. Spielberg describes all this flawlessly. He doesn’t diminish the horror of these events, but he doesn’t go too far and become exploitative either. He shows impressive respect as well as restraint (unlike in his overpraised “Saving Private Ryan”). “Schindler’s List” is a must-see masterpiece, a great achievement in filmmaking as well as an overwhelming look at how good, bad or ugly human nature can get.