I Am Clever

alec_towser


A Fine Line - Between Chaos and Creation

Everybody seems to think I'm lazy; I don't mind, I think they're crazy...


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Movie Critique
I Am Clever
alec_towser
Schindler’s List (1993)
(Rated R for Language, Realistic Violence And Some Sexuality)

Director: Steven Spielburg; Universal Studios
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and Ralph Fiennes
This movie has been the recipient of seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Score, as well as numerous other awards, including 7 BAFTA and 3 Golden Globes.

Critically acclaimed award winning film director Steven Spielberg has done it again – created another cinematic masterpiece to add to his collection. Although it sits alongside many other well-known movies such as E.T., Back to the Future, and Jurassic Park, it easily surpasses them all. This masterpiece is known as Schindler’s List; his most poignant and stunning film to date.

Schindler’s List is a film depiction of the true story of Nazi Czech businessman Oskar Schindler, who uses Jewish labor to start a factory in occupied Poland. As World War II progresses, and the fate of the Jews becomes more and more clear, Schindler's motivations switch from profit to human sympathy and he is able to save over 1100 Jews from death in the gas chambers.

Liam Neeson gives a brilliant portrayal as the all-too-human Oskar Schindler, instilling an interesting mix of power and gentleness, human greed/calculation and eventually compassion in the viewers’ minds. Many of the different aspects of his life and emotions are shown throughout the movie, showing a change so gradual in his manner of thinking that the audience almost doesn’t notice it. It is hard to understand why Schindler changes his motives from war profiteering to saving lives, and the movie doesn’t attempt to answer this, leaving it an intriguing mystery for the rest of the world to ponder. Neeson’s role is a highly believable one, easy to sympathize with, simply because he shows how flawed Schindler truly was – not perfect, as many would like to believe.

Similarly, Ben Kingsley (Itzhak Stern) and Ralph Fiennes (Amon Goeth) play their parts very well in complement to Neeson. The relationship between Schindler and Stern from the start to the finish of the movie thrives on one specific word – subtlety. At the beginning, Schindler is very blunt with Stern, telling him in no uncertain terms that his only interest is to make money. This gradually shifts, and by the end, he is treating Stern as more of an equal, and his only interest is to save “his” Jews and to completely defraud the Nazis by never producing anything from his factory that the army can use: “Stern, if this factory ever produces a shell that can actually be fired, I'll be very unhappy.”

In contrast, the character of Amon Goeth doesn’t change all too much over the course of the film. However, Fiennes’ performance serves the character well – the audience completely believes that he fully is a sadistic Nazi, serving Hitler until the end. He even was believable in costume to some of the surviving Schindlerjuden who happened to meet him. TIME magazine stated “When Fiennes, in full Hauptsturmfuhrer regalia, was introduced by Spielberg to Mila Pfefferberg, a Schindler survivor depicted in the film, the old lady trembled…” in an article about Ralph Fiennes.

The incredible acting jobs are not the movie’s only strength, however – a great deal of what makes this movie so unbelievably breathtaking is the cinematography. Shot completely in black and white (except for the examples below) at the actual locations (barring Auschwitz and Płaszów; the former being forbidden to the filmmakers, and the latter having had post-war changes) and using handheld cameras for 40% of the filming, it feels almost as if the entire movie has been caught on film by someone who was actually there. This is the effect Spielburg was going for – he shot it in a documentary style over the course of 71 days, giving it “an edge”, as he himself stated.

There are only 4 instances of colour filming throughout the entire movie, which adds to the dramatic effect. The first is at the beginning of the movie, depicting a Jewish family celebrating the Sabbath, underscoring the carnage that is soon to take place. The second is of a little girl (around 6; is unnamed) wearing a red coat. The third is of candle flames being lit for the Sabbath near the end of the movie, and lastly (and most importantly) is a scene showing all the surviving Schindlerjuden (or their surviving family members) and the actors who portrayed them placing rocks one by one on Oskar Schindler’s grave. This is an incredibly emotional scene, showing that Schindler really has done what the movie’s tagline states: “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”

The dialogue is mainly in English throughout the film, with phrases in German and Polish thrown in every so often to add effect. Spielburg had considered filming entirely in German and Polish to remain true to the setting, but felt that "there's too much safety in reading [English subtitles]. It would have been an excuse to take their eyes off the screen and watch something else." The dialogue is fairly easy to follow, isn’t too long, and the actors’/actresses’ accents aren’t so thick as to render the words unintelligible.

Spielberg also uses some very fascinating audio/visual effects – playing classical music and having children singing a song during Operation Reinhard in Kraków, juxtaposing both elegant beauty and childish innocence alongside the brutal killing and forced evictions. He also gets up close and personal for many scenes of violence, showing people shot in the snow, Jews nude for physical exams, and a woman being beaten. There are also a couple of scenes which deal with sexual nudity (Schindler and a woman are shown in bed together, and later, another woman is shown clearly topless sleeping in Goeth’s bed. She doesn’t make much of a move to cover up after she’s awakened.), which the film could have easily done without, as the nudity does nothing to really forward the story.

Spielburg truly doesn’t pull any punches with Schindler’s list – the film is rated R, and so it should be, for all the complete realism he has managed to pack into 3 hours (which feels much too short). This movie is not for the squeamish or faint of heart, as this is a highly violent and dramatic reenactment of the terrible events that took place during the Holocaust. This is a movie that demands viewing and reviewing many times, however, for the amazing story it tells – of one man who ran great risks to do what was right.

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Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schindler's_List

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108052/

http://www.historyinfilm.com/schnlist/

Richard Corliss (1994-02-21). "The Man Behind the Monster". TIME. Retrieved 2007-08-08.

Susan Royal. "An Interview with Steven Spielberg". Inside Film Magazine Online. Retrieved 2008-10-29.

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