Schindler’s List (1993) is the most successful and famous of Holocaust films. It is based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, an Austrian Catholic businessman who preserved the lives of over 1,000 Jews by putting them to work in his factory and then using his influence and his fortune to keep them from the death camps.
Steven Zaillian’s screenplay is based on the book by Thomas Kenneally, and the film was directed by Steven Spielberg. It is meticulously researched and produced, and the end product is a searing film that merits its “R” rating. Liam Neeson stars as Schindler, Ben Kinglsey as Yitzhak Stern, his bookkeeper, and Ralph Fiennes portrays Amon Goeth, one of the most reprehensible and terrifying figures in film. This is not a film for children, but it is a truly great film. It won 7 Oscars out of 12 nominations in 1994.
This film has been the beginning of a Holocaust education for many people around the world, simply because of its availability and popularity. It is an excellent source, but I would approach it with some caution: it is NOT suitable for children, or for someone who gets nightmares from upsetting films, and while it is a good beginning of a Holocaust education, it should not be the end of anyone’s education.
I have been told by more than one survivor that Spielberg put on film what audiences would stand: the real historical events were more horrible than anything that should be available on film. Moreover, while narrative tells us a great deal, we also need to talk about the circumstances that came together to create the events we call “the Holocaust.” Good as it is, the film does not say enough about the events it covers to be the final word on the subject.
All of that said, I would have tagged this film a “Must see!” were it not for the difficult content. See it if you can, and discuss it with others.
For a non-fiction treatment of the topic, and especially of the details of the death camps, the 9.5 hours of Shoah are incomparable but horrific. (I am not suggesting that one watch these two films as an actual double feature, in one sitting — I fear that it might lead to suicidal depression and despair! “Double Feature” is just a way of signifying in this blog that two films are related.)