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Schindler's List This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   This movie is rated R. Those under 17 must be accompanied by an adult.
Many critics have attempted to describe this film in pure cinematic terms - its performances, scripting, lighting, etc. But this is not a conventional movie-going experience. Spielberg has forced us into speechless awe before with his movie-making wizardry, but during Schindler's List, we sit silent for other reasons. We do not utter a word because of the telling silence of our companion movie-goers, and not just because we don't want to speak, but because we can't - any word we express will seem insignificant and vulgar in comparison to the holy document up on the screen. We leave the film both tormented and uplifted.

I did not relish coming to this movie. I knew it must be something great because Spielberg had a duty to do no less, yet I also knew that any great movie on the Holocaust must not only enlighten us, but terrify us, horrify us, take us to worlds to which we don't want to go. The Eastern European ghettoes, more than the concentration camps, were my personal hell. In what is probably the greatest measure of this film's power, I, a person who has never wept at a film , cried. And I cried. And I cried. I wept uncontrollably at the simple old man who is missing one arm, shot dead like a dog in the back of the head. I cried silent screams at the sick woman shot, her blood spurting into her weeping husband's face. And, oh, the children. The little Jewish child forced to be an adult, who must be a Nazi whistle-blower for the Jews still in hiding. The little girl in the red coat (one of only two moments of color in the film) with whom Schindler immediately identifies, only to see her body in a wheelbarrow later, still clothed in vibrant red.

They are the images that stick with us, and thank God. They story is simple. Oskar Schindler, an enigmatic Nazi German businessman, comes to Krakow and weasels his way into getting a factory right outside the ghetto. Then, as the Final Solution comes closer to realization, the Krakow Ghetto is emptied of Jews (who are subsequently sent to concentration camps. Schindler, ever the entrepreneur, continues using the Jews from Krakow for his factory, although they reside in a camp run by the unequivocally evil Amon Goeth . Schindler, after seeing more horrors than he can handle, actually buys 1100 Jews from the Nazi camp.

It is sublime and potent in its simplicity. We see one man escape from the clutches of the Nazis in the ghettoes by hiding in the sewers and masquerading as a Pole. Next we see him, he is in the camps. No explanation is given how he was caught. He is Jewish and all Jews end up in the camps or in the grave. Later, Schindler and Amon Goeth decide to play a game of blackjack for the life of Goeth's Jewish maid. The game is never shown which is to Spielberg's credit.

What is thoroughly remarkable about his movie is that it is both intimate and utterly grand in scope. It is a trait we have seen before in Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. , but never so perfectly and seamlessly done. We scarcely realize that at one moment we are observing Schindler talking of his life quietly to his wife and a few minutes later, we witness the mass killing of Jews in the ghetto. Spielberg achieves the delicate transition from the individual to the epic through subtle pans of the camera, as when he shows Schindler talking to a worker, then pans to a room where men are unloading suitcases from Jews.

Many grand images are shown, but never too many. Spielberg assumes the intelligence of his audience - we know at least a little about the Holocaust. Schindler's List truly affects even those who know all of the Holocaust through the film's humanity, achieved through its very personal aspects. Ironically, the character we come to know the best is not Schindler (nor any of the Jews), but Amon Goeth, the picture of true evil. In a performance easily worthy an Oscar, Ralph Fiennes gives a sympathetic and actually human portrayal of one of the most evil characters ever presented. He is a man so indoctrinated by Nazi theology that he cannot express his burning passion for the woman he loves most, his beautiful Jewish maid, Helen. We don't forgive Goeth for his abuse or his random shooting of Jews, but in the dark recesses in our minds that we don't want to accept, we understand and subtly feel for him.

Spielberg even takes the risk of inserting slight episodes of humor, which are necessary points of light in a sea of dark horror. Some would find portraying a Nazi as a human and humor in the midst of the Holocaust as offensive and perverse. They are nothing of the kind. They in fact strengthen the humanity of the movie. What is tragedy without comedy? These are questions asked, and thankfully answered, in this remarkably moving film.

Schindler's List is not without its slip-ups. Spielberg sometimes oversteps his bounds in terms of realistic dialogue, a common fault of his. At other times, a little too much of saintly light falls upon Schindler's brow. But this is all moot. The few words do little to subtract from the overall picture of beauty we have been given.

Schindler's List is not the perfect film about the Holocaust, but it is the best there is and probably the best we'll see for a long time. It is a moving, passionate celebration of heroism , document of horror, and study in humanity. In a world of superlatives used to describe films, it is in every way a must-see film, but in no way the last word on the Holocaust.

Spielberg did not make this film to dazzle us, or let us escape from reality for even a second. He made this as a tribute to the survivors of the Holocaust and the memory of its victims. Schindler's List is distressing and horrifying, but in an ultimate testament to Spielberg's talent and human's capability for not only evil but good, we leave the film affirmed in our faith in humanity, yet still wary of its pitfalls. .



Review by M. S., Natick, MA


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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