Tips for Thought

The Cinematic Masterpiece: Schindler’s List (1993)

Schindler’s List, image courtesy of Wikipedia

Since its release in 1993, “Schindler’s List” has stood as one of the most poignant and profound films in modern cinema. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and Ralph Fiennes, the movie recounts the inspiring true story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved more than a thousand Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories.

Plot

Set amidst the horrific backdrop of World War II, “Schindler’s List” traces the transformative journey of Oskar Schindler, a man who begins the war as a selfish, opportunistic businessman and ends up becoming an unlikely hero. Through clever manipulations and vast expenditures, Schindler manages to save 1,200 Jews from the Nazi concentration camps, demonstrating humanity’s capacity for good even in the face of unimaginable evil.

Filmmaking Brilliance

Steven Spielberg, known for his penchant for visual storytelling, utilized black-and-white cinematography to depict this historical drama, adding depth and weight to the narrative. By doing so, Spielberg creates a contrast that evokes the period and further highlights the horrific realities of the Holocaust. However, amidst the stark black-and-white imagery, there’s the recurring motif of a little girl in a red coat, a choice that sharply brings out the innocence amid such harrowing times and leaves a lasting impact.

Performances

The performances in “Schindler’s List” are nothing short of stellar. Liam Neeson delivers a complex portrayal of Schindler, capturing the man’s transformation from a self-centered industrialist to a savior with exceptional depth and nuance. Ben Kingsley, playing Schindler’s Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern, provides a grounded, emotional performance that serves as the movie’s moral compass. Ralph Fiennes is chillingly memorable as Amon Goeth, the brutal Nazi commandant of the Plaszow concentration camp.

Impact and Legacy

“Schindler’s List” has left a lasting impact, both on cinema and in the broader social and historical context. The film made a profound impression on audiences around the world, reminding them of the Holocaust’s atrocities and the courage of individuals like Schindler. It has since been considered a crucial piece of Holocaust education.

The film was a massive critical and commercial success, grossing $322 million worldwide against a $22 million budget. It was nominated for twelve Academy Awards and won seven, including Best Picture, Best Director for Spielberg, Best Adapted Screenplay for Steven Zaillian, and Best Original Score for John Williams.

Moreover, the film’s success led Spielberg to establish the Shoah Foundation, an organization dedicated to recording and preserving testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust.

The Lessons

1. The Power of Individual Action: Oskar Schindler, a single individual, made a difference in the lives of over 1,200 people. His transformation from an opportunist to a savior demonstrates that individual actions, even when they seem insignificant in the face of overwhelming adversity, can profoundly impact others’ lives. This underscores the importance of taking action and standing up against injustices, no matter how small our contributions might seem.

2. The Complexity of Human Nature: The character of Schindler is complex, representing the dichotomy within human nature. He is not a traditional hero; he is deeply flawed, driven initially by greed and profit. Yet, he risks everything to save lives. This teaches us that people can change and that redemption is possible, emphasizing the importance of empathy and understanding in judging character.

3. The Dangers of Indifference: “Schindler’s List” poignantly shows the horrific consequences of widespread indifference and complicity during the Holocaust. This lesson can be extended to remind us of the dangers of turning a blind eye to the suffering of others in any situation. Apathy or indifference in the face of injustice allows for the perpetuation of harmful actions.

4. Resilience and Hope: Despite the unimaginable horrors depicted in the movie, the indomitable spirit of hope shines through. The Jewish workers in Schindler’s factory endure their circumstances with strength and resilience, reminding us that hope can endure even in the darkest of times.

5. Value of Every Individual: Schindler’s famous line near the end of the film, “I could have gotten one more person… and I didn’t,” underlines the priceless value of each individual life. This is an essential lesson in humanity, reminding us that every life is unique and invaluable.

6. The Responsibility of Remembrance: The film underlines the importance of remembering historical atrocities to prevent their recurrence. Through this portrayal of the Holocaust, “Schindler’s List” teaches the responsibility each generation carries to learn from and remember the past.

Schindler’s List” serves as a powerful teaching tool, a historical reflection that imparts valuable lessons about humanity, compassion, and the responsibility each of us holds towards our fellow human beings. These lessons extend far beyond the historical context of the film, offering timeless insights about human nature and our collective capacity for both evil and good.