Itzhak Perlman performs the Theme From Schindler’s List, a masterful and poignant 1993 film of The Shoah (The Holocaust) produced and directed by Steven Spielberg. The Hollywood film is based on the book, Schindler's Ark (1982) by Thomas Keneally.
It is a story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of more than a thousand Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. It is as much a story of redemption of one man, Oskar Schindler, as of a thousand who were saved from certain death. It is a Hollywood portrayal of how events can conspire to change an individual, compelling him to go against common and conventional thinking. It also shows (proves, some would say) that even in the darkest of times human goodness can overcome evil.
John Williams composed the score for Schindler's List, including this piece. It is shot mainly in black and white, thus avoiding the beauty that colour provides, and gives the viewer an aesthetic sense of starkness and sadness. The viewers are drawn in to the scenes as if they were viewing a documentary that its is not. The American Film Institute, in its 2007 listings, ranked the film no. 8 on its list of the 100 best American films of all time. It is very much an American film of a non-American historical event.
The film has its detractors, including Claude Lanzmann, the documentary film-maker of Shoah (1985), who called it “a kitschy melodrama;” and Imre Kertész, a Hungarian-Jewish author, survivor and 2002 Noble laureate in literature, who called the film “kitsch.” The criticisms are valid and not without merit. Yet, Spielberg is an American film-maker who tells a certain kind of story, one that appeals chiefly to American audiences and their sensibilities, and he is bound by this cultural restriction.
In its defense, I would say that no one film, book or photographic essay can capture the full sense of what took place, but each can clarify and amplify the story. Spielberg’s film is important, I would argue, in that it helps give wide-spread exposure to what took place during the Second World War, and show how hate can capture a nation and its people, leading it to an abyss. And, then, the actions of one imperfect all-too-human man, Oskar Schindler. Redemption.
Most organizations have regarded the film favourably. The Library of Congress called the film "culturally significant," adding it to the National Film Registry in 2004. In Germany, the film was well received, with almost six million tickets sold. The readers of the German film magazine, Cinema, voted Schindler’s List as the best movie of all time in 2000. It also made the Vatican Film List of the important 45 films of all time.
|Schindler’s List: Poster for the film, 1993.|