Schindler’s List

“Schindler’s List”

 

(June 13, 2010)

 

Let me make this confession. I do feel slightly ashamed. I am not sure how it happened and I always intended to make up for this mistake. I had never seen “Schindler’s List,” Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Holocaust epic that swept awards and hearts across the land. I did, however, see “Jurassic Park,” Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film about a park filled with dinosaurs.

I had heard about how astounding and moving the film is. I had seen it win every award known to man. I read a story about how Spielberg asked not to be paid for his work on this picture (a moving testament to the Holocaust survivors and the Shoah foundation; no doubt helped by the fact that Spielberg took in $250 million that year for that dino flick we mentioned above). I even saw the Seinfeld episode. Somehow, I never saw the film.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, now I have finally seen it. All 196 minutes of it.

Now anybody that has heard me mention him knows that I find Spielberg to be a powerful filmmaker sometimes trapped by his own sap. This came to a head in 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan,” in which the film is bookended by a present day flashback that Private Ryan couldn’t possibly be having because he’s absent for about the first two hours of said flashback. What made this move worse was how unnecessary it was. The film would play perfectly without it, but with that homegrown schmaltzy feel that its inclusion provided.

This film has similar bookends, and for me, it may be a bit too much, but I at least understand it. It allows actors to stand alongside those they portrayed and it also allows Spielberg to introduce the very selective usage of color he will use on this otherwise Black & White Kodak film (gorgeously composed).

The usage of color is the most powerful I have seen in a while. Sure Hitchcock and Fuller have selected used color years and years ago, but not like this. Sure, Stevie shows off a bit when he has the candles flicker amber flame, but he makes up for it with the girl in red. She is one of many Jewish children caught in the ghetto. She is one of thousands, maybe millions. But she, for whatever reason, catches Schindler’s eye. And so she catches the eye of the audience. Across the muck strewn black and white, we see a girl, completely in red. She is running, trying to escape death or capture and whatever other horrors await. She runs into a house to hide. We, as well as Schindler, see her later. She is just one of thousands. But now she is specific. Now she is tragic.

And somehow the film is not. It is great. Epic. Uplifting. It tells its story beautifully. But you should know this. I was the one silly enough to let it escape me for sixteen years. Surely, you haven’t, right?

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