Directed by Steven Spielberg
Starring Lian Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and Ralph Fiennes
Have you ever seen a film that was both incredibly well produced and also so emotionally impacting that it left you awestruck and in tears at the end? Schindler’s List is one of those films, and here’s why.
Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is a Nazi businessman who risks his fortunes and his life to save the Polish Jews he came to know within his factory. Schindler arrives in Poland on the heels of Poland’s defeat from Germany in 1939 with the idea of using disenfranchised Polish Jews as cheap factory labor. Over time, this war profiteer grows closer to his workers as his factory accountant Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) and his Jewish employees are hunted down and placed into a concentration camp by the psychotic German SS-Lieutenant Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes). As the Holocaust grows deadlier, Schindler desperately tries to find a way to save as many of his employees as he can.
Emotionally, this is a brutally devastating film. It makes every attempt to show the horrors of the Holocaust from a personal perspective. Prepare yourself though. This is a long film, clocking in over three hours and covering a six-year time span. The first third may feel slow waiting for the inevitable conflict to kick in, but that waiting quickly turned into nail-biting suspense.
As the depths of the Nazi oppression and extermination of the Jewish people comes full focus, you lose track of time after being engrossed by the atrocities happening on screen. The film’s length benefits it by introducing you to the several supporting and incidental characters. By the time everything goes to hell – with home raids, random shootings, burning ovens, and gas chambers – you’re on the edge of your seat because you are invested in these characters, because you want some semblance of hope in this entirely bleak world.
The film’s bleakness is exemplified by being in black and white. There are a couple of instances of colorized objects and colored scenes, but they are far between. The colorized instances in the black and white are also somewhat subdued, as opposed to some other black and white films that use very intense and vibrant instances of color (*cough*SinCity*cough*).
All of this darkness makes the light at the end of the tunnel much more cathartic. This film is ultimately a message of hope and perseverance, about how anyone can make a difference. Schindler isn’t a fighter or a politician. He’s a business man, and a shady one at that. In the end, his morals aren’t as corrupt as his business practices, and even an almost unscrupulous man can do true good for his fellow mankind.
If any film teaches that lesson with such depth of feeling and long-lasting impression, it’s Schindler’s List.
The Video and Audio
The Blu-Ray of this film is gorgeous, which is almost awkward to say about this harrowing film. The high-definition video is incredibly crisp. The black and white contrast is sharp. The film is almost too clear with how some of the detail of certain scenes is too much to watch, but that’s the nature of the film. This film and its restoration are outstanding.
The film’s audio in DTS-HD Master Audio is likewise clearly audible, especially John Williams’ perfectly-somber score. The switching back and forth from German to English occasionally makes the dialog hard to follow though.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This release includes four copies of the film: a Blu-Ray, a DVD copy across two discs, a digital download code, and an UltraViolet streaming code. Oddly enough, the extras are actually on the second DVD instead of the Blu-Ray. A press release before the Blu-Ray’s release said they would be on both, so that’s going to cause some point loss.
The actual extras include the documentary “Voices from the List” – interviewing Holocaust survivors saved by Oskar Schindler through the USC Shoah Foundation, which was started by Spielberg after the film’s release. The survivors discuss Schindler himself and how he saved them, but they also go into the general lifestyle of the time and then life afterwards. These interviews were filmed sometime after the movie’s release and are shot in 4:3 fullscreen standard definition. Also included are short promotional videos of the USC Shoah Foundation and its IWitness educational program.
I honestly wanted more behind-the-scenes features and commentary on such a storied and praised film. The documentary feels like the only real added experience, which is fine on its own, but it’s hard to follow up with the depressing real story after just going through the film.
Overall (Not an Average)
To be honest, this is the definitive school collection of this film. In addition to the film itself being such a compelling portrayal of a tragic yet important historical event, its extras are also geared towards education and towards getting schools to work with the USC Shoah Foundation. The DVD release even has a natural breaking point between discs in case there isn’t time in class to watch all three hours. After all that, the teacher can keep the Blu-Ray for personal viewing.
Film nerds unfortunately have only one draw to flock to this release: the excellent restoration of the film itself. Is that enough? Yes. Although I want more extras and will dock the release points for that, this film is definitely worth putting on your shelf. Even if you don’t watch it often, and who can blame you after the emotional strain, it’s worth it when you do.
The Film 10/10
The Video and Audio 9/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10