I have seen them all, the best and the worst. From Citizen Kane to Interstellar and from that god awful movie The Notebook to Batman and Robin, I've seen movies in their most alluring and most hideous forms. There's no denying how much of a role movies play in our everyday lives, like music, they appeal to our emotions and continue to dazzle us with visual (auditory in music's case) and artistic creativity. There's a certain rank of movies, a certain echelon, that will instill themselves into your mind forever. Sometimes, one movie can change the way you look at motion pictures as a whole, in my case, that movie was Schindler's List.
It was 12 AM, I was wide awake (as usual), bored out of my head. I looked over to my DVD shelf and started scanning for a movie to watch. I had already watched Apocalypse Now (again) the night before, so the standard had already been set. Would you really wanna follow up Apocalypse Now with 500 Days of Summer? I don't think so. So I looked into the third row of my shelf, there, to the far right (ironic?) I saw it, Schindler's List. I picked it up and looked at the run time, 197 minutes! But I said "What the hell, I'll watch half now and half later", boy was I wrong.
Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Liam Neeson (Oskar Schindler), Ralph Fiennes (Amon Goth), and Ben Kingsley (Itzhak Stern), the story is set in World War II Nazi Poland, it tells us about a time in the life of Oskar Schindler, a Nazi spy turned Businessman. He builds an enamelware factory in the recently invaded city of Krakow in Poland, hiring mainly Polish Jews in his factory, because they cost less, which meant more profit for him. However, it becomes increasingly difficult for Schindler to keep his workers due to the fact that the Nazis were getting murdering more and more Jews in their concentration camps.
Schindler's List was shot in black and white, along with Spielberg's documentary-esque style of shooting, it really gave an accurate and grim feeling of WWII Nazi controlled Poland. It gives you a real sense of how life was like back then, morbid and terrifying, no color whatsoever. The girl in the red coat was the only color that the viewer and Schindler could see, which, although minor, was a very significant element in the movie. At first she is seen by Schindler running during the liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto by the Nazis, she's then seen dead by Schindler again during the mass burning of the victims of the concentration camps (later in the movie). Let's explore that shall we? Everyone's interpretation of the color red is different, but here's mine. Red is the color of extremes, when Schindler first sees the girl, it shows that he's in awe, yet he doesn't comment and is unfazed by it. It is only when he sees her for the second time, dead in a wheelbarrow, he realizes that he should rethink his motives and his ideology.
Liam Neeson was nothing short of brilliant in his portrayal of Oskar Schindler. It might've been one of the best portrayals I've ever seen in a movie. We see Schindler grow from a party loving womanizer to a sympathetic soul in such great detail it blew me to next week. A charismatic man who influenced and charmed everyone around him, including the most ruthless of Nazi officers. At first, I saw a leech, motivated by profit. Little did I know that he would gradually develop into an exceptional individual who would go out of his way to save those less fortunate than him, a humanitarian by every meaning of the word.
Ralph Fiennes' portrayal of Untersturmfuhrer Amon Goth was also quite exceptional. Fiennes did a really good job in helping the viewer explore the character of Goth, the ruthless Nazi officer in charge of the Plaszow concentration camp. A sadistic killer with no regard for human life. Goth, in my opinion, provided some form of comedic relief for me, I don't know whether it was because of the accent or the fact that he wanted to grow old with his domestic helper. For me, Goth personified the savage nature of human beings, he broke every boundary without any remorse. Goth was Nazi Germany.
Itzhak Stern was another admirable character, although at first he seems quite unpleased about working with Schindler, he becomes more and more determined to employ Jews into the factory. As the film progresses, Schindler starts to really care for Stern, and although Stern was cold at first, they eventually become friends. The on screen chemistry between Neeson and Kingsley was fantastic. The complex character development was a distinguishing factor, so many characters were well developed, and none of them felt insignificant. I greatly appreciated that.
The film was shot on location is Krakow, Poland and sets were built to depict the Plaszow and Auschwitz concentration camps. Again, Spielberg's documentary style filming contributed enormously to bringing the sets to life. The 15 minute sequence of the liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto has to be one of the most terrifying and brutal action sequences ever seen on film. It felt real, almost like I was there, witnessing the whole event, it's like someone dug up some found footage and put it in the movie. The music was composed by John Williams and the main theme features violinist Itzhak Perlman, who did a great job in capturing the film's depressing undertone. One piece of music which I particularly appreciated in the film was Gloomy Sunday a.k.a The Hungarian Suicide Song, which is as murky as crows resting on a telephone pole, it really added depth to the atmosphere of the whole film.
Schindler's List is a film that takes you on an emotional rollercoaster. Once you start watching you cannot stop, it sucks you in and doesn't let go until the credits start rolling. I genuinely have nothing negative to say about it, it's as close to perfection as it gets. A modern masterpiece that reminded me why I loved movies in the first place. Culturally and historically significant, it not only taps into the horrors and atrocities of WWII, it shows us that determination, strength, and honor are all but lost. I wept at the end, it was that emotional for me. It was the most complete, most well directed and acted movie I've seen in a long time. I'm not even gonna complain about the run time (197 mins) because I was so absorbed into the movie that I forgot about time itself, it's that fucking good. Definitely one of the movies you have to watch right now, drop everything and watch it, I promise you nothing but severe emotions and warmth on the inside.
"Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire."
Ahmed J. Almatrook