on September 6, 2013
All these descriptions fit Oskar Schindler, who saved 1100 Polish Jews from the Auschwitz ovens during the second World War.
Before we get into a critique of the 20th Anniversary DVD of the 1993 movie, let's deal a bit in fact and fiction.
Fiction: In his overly-sentimental, romantic way, director Steven Spielberg fudges some facts of the way the list developed and deals in some fantasies about the man Schindler himself.
Fact: If you want a realistic account of the man Oskar Schindler and his wife Emile Schindler (whose role in all of this got short shrift from Spielberg in the movie) you should read the book: "Oskar Schindler: The Untold Account....................." by David Crowe. Crowe deals with the real Schindler and the real source of the list, plus Mrs. Schindler's outstanding role in affairs, both during and after the war.
And now to a critique of the 20th Anniversary DVD movie.
In the movie, Spielberg creates a legend of the saviour, Oskar Schindler, because he deserves it. (Schindler is portrayed by Liam Neeson.) The movie is shot in black and white without the brilliance of colour so that our sense of the stark, heart-rending facts are not diverted by our sense of colour. Only one scene shows any colour whatsoever, at the time the Krakow ghetto was being violently cleared out. A beautiful little girl is trotting along the side of the people being cruelly evacuated. Her coat is coloured red. This is a symbol of the blood shed on all of the innocents. The girl herself, although appearing as an innocent child just trotting along unknowingly, proves not to be that unknowing. She goes into a vacated apartment building, ascending to the top apartment, and hides under a bed. The innocence of the girl, then the knowledge of her destination, makes this a chilling scene.
Oskar Schindler was born in Brinnlitz,, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) just south of the Polish border. When the war broke out (September 1, 1939) and the Germans overran Poland, he made his way to Krakow, Poland, and opened a business which produced pots and pans and cutlery, his market being the German forces. In order to achieve his market,he goes through a lot of bribery with black market goods for the German higher-ups, a lot of procurement of willing women for them, a lot of orgies, a lot of bottles of excellent wines, and the procurement of other rare goods only available through the black market.
After the Germans send residents of the Krakow ghetto to be gassed systematically in the death camp, Auschwitz, those still fit to work are sent to a concentration camp set up at Plawitz. The overseer is the sadistic Armon Goeth, who has a villa built on a hill above the camp and just for fun, sits up there on his balcony, randomly shooting unsuspecting Jewish interns walking around the camp. Following the war, Goeth was hung for war crimes. But while he was commandant, his greatest enjoyment - other than attending Oskar's orgiastic drunken parties - was random shooting of Jew, and/or beating up his Jewish maid.
When the Germans were losing, with the Russians advancing from the East and the Allies advancing from the West, the concentration camp was closed down and all workers sent to Auschwitz. These were meant to include the Schindler Jews, who lived in the camp and worked at the Schindler factory during the day.
Schindler and his erstwhile Jewish accountant, Isaac Stern, make up a list of all the workers in his factory, and include Goeth's maid. With a lot of bribing, Schindler gets his Jewish work force sent to him. However, through a cruel twist of fate, the women, in a separate train from the men, are sent to Auschwitz. Just as the Marines save the community at the last moment, Schindler, through more bribing (this time with diamonds) gets the women out of there and sent back to his factory. But because of the retreat of the Germans, Schindler's business is to be liquidated.
So he returns to his home town of Brinnlitz, Czechoslovakia, and opens a plant there, producing munitions for the Germans. He is aware that the war is nearly over and tells Isaac Stern that if the plant ever produces ammunition, he will be sadly disappointed. At this point, Mrs. Schindler reappears in his life (she had left because he wouldn't give up his womanizing), a clinic is opened for the ill, and she does outstanding work in it (which is only alluded to in the movie).
You'll want to see what happens to Schindler and the workers once the war ends and the Jews reward him in their everlasting gratitude.
Oskar Schindler is saviour and hero to the 1100 survivors and, in 1993, their 6,000 descendants. This DVD includes interviews with some of those survivors, which is a feature which should not be missed.
The very end of the movie switches to full colour. Scene: Israel; Oskar Schindler's grave; a parade to put a stone on his grave (an honour) by some of the 1100 whose lives were alluded to in the movie. Emile Schindler is there. The widow of Isaac Stern is there, accompanied by Ben Kingsley, who brilliantly portrays Isaac Stern in the movie. At the end of this scene, a tall, bearded shadow of a man places two roses on Schindler's grave. It is Steven Spielberg.
If this scene does not bring tears to your eyes nothing ever will.
I gave this movie five stars since the movie in itself is brilliant, one of the greats of all time. Through the story of the Krakow ghetto and the Schindler Jews (as they called themselves) Steven Spielberg presents a brilliant microcosm of the macrocosm of Jewish suffering at the hands of the Germans during the second World War. The elimination of six million Jews was the result of technology gone stark raving mad, the evil vision of one madmen which infected a whole nation.
And Schindler, a deeply flawed human being, was still and always will be, a saviour.