Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
JulyDiaz

Schindler's List

Schindler's List  

10 members have voted

This poll is closed to new votes
  1. 1. Does Schindler's List belong on the AFI Top 100?

    • Yes
      9
    • No
      1


Recommended Posts

This week Paul & Amy take a close look at Steven Spielberg's unflinching Holocaust drama "Schindler's List." They discuss the filmmaking instincts Spielberg brings to difficult material, praise Ralph Fiennes' terrifying performance, and discover the crucial role Adam Sandler played in keeping Spielberg's mood up. Plus: Embeth Davidtz (who plays Helen Hirsch) calls in to talk about the unlikely family formed on set.

Next week, call the Unspooled voicemail line at 747-666-5824 with your favorite memories of watching It's A Wonderful Life. Follow us on Twitter @Unspooled, get more info at unspooledpod.com, and don’t forget to rate, review & subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts. Photo credit: Kim Troxall

Edited by DanEngler

Share this post


Link to post

I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but the first time I ever saw Schindler's List... was on my phone.

I'd never seen it (always wanted to) and more or less seized the moment when it showed up on Hulu. Usually I'm against seeing a movie for the first time via phone, mobile device, or an airplane as so many outside factors detract from the experience - plus it's never the way the filmmaker intended it to be shown.

I think it speaks to the quality of this film that, not only was I engaged throughout staring at my phone for 3+ hours, I was even crying during the final minutes of the film where Schindler breaks down in tears and, of course, the real life List survivors walking to his grave.

It goes to show that a masterpiece is a masterpiece - no matter the medium.

Share this post


Link to post

I watch a lot of stuff on my phone, and I know most people mock that, but I kind of enjoy it. It is almost easier for me to immerse myself in the film and filmmaking than if I were just to watch on a tv or laptop.

Watching classic or new stuff on a plane is stupid tho, for sure

(Still trying to find time / mood to finish Schindler's List, so haven't listened to the ep yet.)

Share this post


Link to post

What's wrong with watching stuff on a plane?  I watched Buster Scruggs on my phone on a plane last month and I still incredibly enjoyed the movie.

As far as Schindler's List goes, I have to echo many of the things brought up in the episode.  Like Paul, I was really dreading this one due to its content and runtime.  But like Amy and Paul said, it's a much more enjoyable movie than I remembered it being, and it feels like far less than 195 minutes.  (I might be in the minority here, but I think the only time the film really slows down too much for my taste is the middle 45 minutes or so when they're spending time developing the relationships between Goeth and Schindler and between Goeth and Hirsch.  That might have worked well for some people, but it seems to be at a different pace than the rest of the movie.)

I can see why critics might argue that the enjoyability of the film is in some way disrespectful to the actual horrific real-life circumstances.  However, I think it serves to expose a wider audience to the story, and I wouldn't really say that the film sugarcoats things.  It's an incredibly brutal film, and I think it's a credit to Spielberg that audience members were able to absorb this brutality and be affected by it without it causing them to shut down and stop watching.  I contrast it with something like Come and See which is a fantastic film about the brutality of WWII, but it is so dire that it's a really hard film to get through.

So how do you portray something miserable and brutal without it feeling like exploitation or misery porn or something?  It's a tough line to walk, but I think this film manages to do it correctly.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

The list of Schindler's List


AFI (2007) - 8th
AFI (1997) - 9th
BFI, Critics (2012) - unranked (0 votes) | unranked
BFI, Director (2012) - 546th (1 votes) | 229.32*
IMDB* - 6th place (IMDB rating of 8.9)
Metascore - 93
They Shoot Films (all | US) - 209 | 100 **
Oscar, Best Picture (1993) - winner

*: Extrapolated from there being 42/100 US movies in the top 100 Director's poll

**: I've decided to just count all UK films as US films from the TSFDT top 1000 list.  Partially for simplicity for me to get the count, and just because the criteria for US film seems to actually be, "in English."  And given the differences between the different lists, how it would rank on TSFDT if we only counted the US.


BFI Director ballot of who voted for it (Peter Farrelly)
https://www.bfi.org.uk/films-tv-people/sightandsoundpoll2012/voter/1120

Schindler’s List: the most moving movie I’ve ever seen. I almost didn’t want to see it because I knew what I would be in for. It was such a huge undertaking. How he made it look and feel so real was unbelievable. I’ve met Spielberg a few times and I can’t even talk to him, I’m so in awe of him because of this film.

I tried finding the negative reviews Amy cited in the episode, but since they were effectively pre-internet, I must be googling wrong, but I had a hard time finding them properly.

I cannot find the original J. Hoberman Village Voice review.  I think this pdf is a scan of the roundtable.

http://writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/Schindlers-List-symposium_Village-Voice_03-29-94.pdf

I could only find the Mamet take, transcribed in a reddit thread (I didn't look for this as much, but it wasn't straightforward for me to find from a normal place).

https://www.reddit.com/r/TrueFilm/comments/9bf45g/david_mamets_negative_review_of_schindlers_list/

And in searching for Hoberman's review, I also found this, which skimming it over only parts of it, I am assuming is quite negative.


https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/style/1994/01/16/genocide-pop/66b2e1f0-d207-4b21-bf66-aee28329e9c4/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.037591fcd81c

 

Share this post


Link to post
28 minutes ago, bleary said:

I watched Buster Scruggs on my phone on a plane

Nah that's still your phone, which is fine.  I think we mean watching on the back of the seat in front of you, where films are edited, squished into the square, seemingly lower resolution, etc.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Just now, AlmostAGhost said:

Nah that's still your phone, which is fine.  I think we mean watching on the back of the seat in front of you, where films are edited, squished into the square, etc.

Some airlines are better than others with this though.  Over the summer I watched Jules and Jim for the first time on an Air France flight, and I didn't get the sense that there was any editing for content.  On domestic flights, I stick to PG-rated material (but I found Paddington 2 great on an American Airlines flight).

Share this post


Link to post
40 minutes ago, bleary said:

What's wrong with watching stuff on a plane?  I watched Buster Scruggs on my phone on a plane last month and I still incredibly enjoyed the movie.

As far as Schindler's List goes, I have to echo many of the things brought up in the episode.  Like Paul, I was really dreading this one due to its content and runtime.  But like Amy and Paul said, it's a much more enjoyable movie than I remembered it being, and it feels like far less than 195 minutes.  (I might be in the minority here, but I think the only time the film really slows down too much for my taste is the middle 45 minutes or so when they're spending time developing the relationships between Goeth and Schindler and between Goeth and Hirsch.  That might have worked well for some people, but it seems to be at a different pace than the rest of the movie.)

I can see why critics might argue that the enjoyability of the film is in some way disrespectful to the actual horrific real-life circumstances.  However, I think it serves to expose a wider audience to the story, and I wouldn't really say that the film sugarcoats things.  It's an incredibly brutal film, and I think it's a credit to Spielberg that audience members were able to absorb this brutality and be affected by it without it causing them to shut down and stop watching.  I contrast it with something like Come and See which is a fantastic film about the brutality of WWII, but it is so dire that it's a really hard film to get through.

So how do you portray something miserable and brutal without it feeling like exploitation or misery porn or something?  It's a tough line to walk, but I think this film manages to do it correctly.

Basically agree with everything here. I was also surprised at how swiftly this film moved, not having seen it in at least a decade. It just flies right along, despite the 3+ hour run time and brutal subject matter.

I've heard criticisms like Hoberman and Mamet's before, and I tend to agree with Paul: I think these criticisms generally lose sight of the needs of dramatic storytelling, versus historical record. An audience watching drama responds to things like relatable characters, emotional highs and lows, a driving narrative, etc. You can subvert these things sometimes, but if it's totally devoid of that stuff they're going to check out.

So yes, Spielberg chose to focus his story on a non-Jew who was flawed but did a heroic thing in the end. I think this works well for his approach, for a couple of reasons:

1. Spielberg is, above all things, a brilliant director of action. I think this extends to his characters too: he works best with lead characters who are always moving and doing things. Schindler is that, and is Spielberg's way in to exploring the Holocaust. If his central character is Jewish then that character will have to be static and constantly victimized. I don't think Spielberg works well in that mode. (Seems like the only way to get really active Jewish protagonists in a Holocaust movie is to generate a fantasy world, as Tarantino did with Inglorious Basterds.)

2. The audience for this film is not just Jewish people. If Amy's statistic about Holocaust denial is to be believed, then it seems another important task for this film is to get people who might have doubted the existence of the Holocaust to believe it. Schindler is a non-Jew who is led down the path to full understanding of how terrible his government's treatment of Jews really was. The movie is leading its modern audience down the same path. This is part of what makes it effective as drama.

I've got more thoughts (boy, this movie was way more emotionally effective than I expected it to be on this rewatch), but will need to return later.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
16 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

2. The audience for this film is not just Jewish people. If Amy's statistic about Holocaust denial is to be believed, then it seems another important task for this film is to get people who might have doubted the existence of the Holocaust to believe it. Schindler is a non-Jew who is led down the path to full understanding of how terrible his government's treatment of Jews really was. The movie is leading its modern audience down the same path. This is part of what makes it effective as drama.

 I've got more thoughts (boy, this movie was way more emotionally effective than I expected it to be on this rewatch), but will need to return later.

I don't think that is a realistic "task" of this film. A film can't convince you of a historical event if it doesn't fully describe what that event is. The film can add detail, realism, empathy, and insight to our understanding of the event. But I'm not sure that Schindler's List conveys the essential, stipulated facts about the Holocaust to the novice or skeptic. Without any context, one might think that the Holocaust was a series of random violent acts and perhaps a concentration camp here or there. Only when I visited these camp sites did I fully realize how  this was a state-sponsored death industry, as efficient as steel or automotive factories.  By the same token, "Twelve Years a Slave" is not the ultimate "slavery story" that can be appreciated without knowing about America's history of endemic racism and institutionalized human trafficking.  "Schindler's List" might be treated as the ultimate telling of the Holocaust because of the movie's ambitious scope and pedigree, but it is still just one story. 

This theme of context (the context in which we watch a movie) is brought up in this excellent story from This American Life about "Schindler's List". I highly, highly recommend it.

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/644/random-acts-of-history/act-one-5

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
29 minutes ago, joshg said:

I don't think that is a realistic "task" of this film. A film can't convince you of a historical event if it doesn't fully describe what that event is. The film can add detail, realism, empathy, and insight to our understanding of the event. But I'm not sure that Schindler's List conveys the essential, stipulated facts about the Holocaust to the novice or skeptic. Without any context, one might think that the Holocaust was a series of random violent acts and perhaps a concentration camp here or there. Only when I visited these camp sites did I fully realize how  this was a state-sponsored death industry, as efficient as steel or automotive factories.  By the same token, "Twelve Years a Slave" is not the ultimately "slavery story" that can be appreciated without knowing about America's history of endemic racism and institutionalized human trafficking.  "Schindler's List" might be treated as the ultimate telling of the Holocaust because of the movie's ambitious scope and pedigree, but it is still just one story. 

This theme of context (the context in which we watch a movie) is brought up in this excellent story from This American Life about "Schindler's List". I highly, highly recommend it.

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/644/random-acts-of-history/act-one-5

I agree that it's not the function of this particular movie to show the full breadth of the Holocaust. I'm not sure any movie could. The closest I've seen is Shoah. It's a 9 hour documentary that is primarily victims and survivors of death camps telling their story. It's haunting and Schindler's List, for all its power, seems almost quaint in comparison.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
42 minutes ago, joshg said:

A film can't convince you of a historical event if it doesn't fully describe what that event is. The film can add detail, realism, empathy, and insight to our understanding of the event. But I'm not sure that Schindler's List conveys the essential, stipulated facts about the Holocaust to the novice or skeptic. Without any context, one might think that the Holocaust was a series of random violent acts and perhaps a concentration camp here or there.

So my argument is that you kind of need both. In school or in a museum you can learn about the numbers of deaths and concentration camps and refugees. But that kind of fact-based learning will still likely feel abstract and not completely "real." Humans are emotional, tribal creatures. I think for a lot of people it doesn't truly hit home until you can connect it to a personal story like this movie does. You see that in politics all the time: the candidate who wins isn't the one who had all the thorough facts and figures behind them, it's the one who connected personally. The message is much more powerful if you feel personally connected to it.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
1 hour ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

So my argument is that you kind of need both. In school or in a museum you can learn about the numbers of deaths and concentration camps and refugees. But that kind of fact-based learning will still likely feel abstract and not completely "real." Humans are emotional, tribal creatures. I think for a lot of people it doesn't truly hit home until you can connect it to a personal story like this movie does. You see that in politics all the time: the candidate who wins isn't the one who had all the thorough facts and figures behind them, it's the one who connected personally. The message is much more powerful if you feel personally connected to it.

Depends on how we define "personal story". You're right that facts only take us so far but I don't see how someone can know the story then see documentary footage of bodies piled in mounds shoveled into mass graves without being affected. That's not necessarily "personal" but it certainly puts the numbers in perspective in a human way.

Share this post


Link to post
49 minutes ago, grudlian. said:

Depends on how we define "personal story". You're right that facts only take us so far but I don't see how someone can know the story then see documentary footage of bodies piled in mounds shoveled into mass graves without being affected. That's not necessarily "personal" but it certainly puts the numbers in perspective in a human way.

I think it definitely affects you, but in a different way perhaps? It's hard to define, but it definitely feels different (not more or less valuable, just different).

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
2 hours ago, grudlian. said:

Depends on how we define "personal story". You're right that facts only take us so far but I don't see how someone can know the story then see documentary footage of bodies piled in mounds shoveled into mass graves without being affected. That's not necessarily "personal" but it certainly puts the numbers in perspective in a human way.

 

2 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

I think it definitely affects you, but in a different way perhaps? It's hard to define, but it definitely feels different (not more or less valuable, just different).

It's like the aphorism (usually credited to Stalin, but it precedes him) that "One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic."  

Humans experience empathy in a lot of different ways, and for many people the sight of bodies in mass graves is an abstract horror; something that is recognizably despicable yet somehow distant.  Those people may understand the event more intimately if they are shown the personalities/souls/living essences that were extinguished.  This is why the Diary of Anne Frank is still so moving for so many people, and why even slightly factually incorrect depictions can contextualize the horrors for people in a different way.

As sycasey said, it's not more or less valuable, but it's different.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
6 hours ago, bleary said:

 

It's like the aphorism (usually credited to Stalin, but it precedes him) that "One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic."  

Humans experience empathy in a lot of different ways, and for many people the sight of bodies in mass graves is an abstract horror; something that is recognizably despicable yet somehow distant.  Those people may understand the event more intimately if they are shown the personalities/souls/living essences that were extinguished.  This is why the Diary of Anne Frank is still so moving for so many people, and why even slightly factually incorrect depictions can contextualize the horrors for people in a different way. 

As sycasey said, it's not more or less valuable, but it's different. 

Moreover, this is specifically what Schindler's List is about. It's the whole metaphor of the girl in the red coat, that something about this individual stood out to Schindler for some reason, and that image stuck with him and drove him to do what he did. (Yes, the movie presents his motivations as more complicated and ever-shifting than that, but at root that's what it is -- he distilled the whole thing down to individual people he cared about and wanted to save.)

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post

It also surprised me how entertaining this movie was. I do think that's important though. If Spielberg doesn't make people want to watch his movie, then he's never going to get his message across. Making something entertaining does not take any gravitas away from it; it just lends another connection to the brain.

 

I wrote another article on how this movie could help writers in case you want to read it. I'm pretty pumped that Amy liked this one: Schindler's List

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

A couple personal stories to add, in keeping with the theme of Schindler's List as an entry point into not only the Holocaust for the uninitiated, but also Jewishness. The first two stories tangentially have to do with me liking nice non-Jewish girls in college in the nineties.

Undergrad: I asked a girl to join me to hear Elie Wiesel (author, Nobel peace prize winner, Holocaust survivor) speak on campus.  He gave a profound talk on the nature of evil and how to confront it. After the talk, students lined up to ask questions. My female friend got in line, but once someone else stepped up to the mike and asked "What did you think of Schindler's List?" she sat down.  "That was going to be my question," she said.

Grad school: I asked a freshman girl out, who I didn't realize was Mormon.  She somewhat naively didn't realize I was Jewish, despite certain facial features and my last (and first) name. Once I explained that I was Jewish, literally her first reaction was to ask, "What did you think of Schindler'sList?"

As for context in which to watch this movie, it probably wasn't the best timing when I returned back to the dorm after seeing it for a second time in theaters, this time with several non-Jewish friends who were shocked to their core.  SNL was playing in the student lounge, and it happened to be this skit with Heather Locklear as host, during this exact moment:

 

 

Needless to say, I wasn't in the mood to find it quite funny at the time.  I've since come around and can appreciate it within the context of an absurd SNL skit...but in 2018 it sadly doesn't feel quite so much like a comedy bit any more.

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

I'm interested in whether the lack of discussion on this movie is due to people choosing not to/not getting a chance to watch/rewatch it, or due to a general lack of differing opinion or lack of desire to engage in the usual banter over such a serious movie.  (Or maybe everyone is out shopping or otherwise enjoying the holidays, or just taking care of end of year business.  I put it on while I was grading finals, so I might have missed a chyron or two.)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Aye. I've been trying to really find the right words on this one. I couldn't bring myself to re-watch it. I was too young to see it in theaters when it came out, but I remember watching it in school, and the one time one of the TV networks showed it in its entirety. It was my first real introduction to the holocaust and I hadn't known anyone who was Jewish until college. What stuck with me the most was not just the gruesome deaths, but Schindler's breaking down at the end about how many more people he could have saved. But it's been about 25 years since I've seen it and I'm still not quite ready to see it again. 

12 hours ago, joshg said:

A couple personal stories to add, in keeping with the theme of Schindler's List as an entry point into not only the Holocaust for the uninitiated, but also Jewishness. The first two stories tangentially have to do with me liking nice non-Jewish girls in college in the nineties.

Undergrad: I asked a girl to join me to hear Elie Wiesel (author, Nobel peace prize winner, Holocaust survivor) speak on campus.  He gave a profound talk on the nature of evil and how to confront it. After the talk, students lined up to ask questions. My female friend got in line, but once someone else stepped up to the mike and asked "What did you think of Schindler's List?" she sat down.  "That was going to be my question," she said.

Grad school: I asked a freshman girl out, who I didn't realize was Mormon.  She somewhat naively didn't realize I was Jewish, despite certain facial features and my last (and first) name. Once I explained that I was Jewish, literally her first reaction was to ask, "What did you think of Schindler'sList?"

 

 

One thing I've been wanting to discuss is that I can't quite put my finger on whey Schindler's List became the introduction to the Jewish story and the Holocaust? 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
3 hours ago, bleary said:

I'm interested in whether the lack of discussion on this movie is due to people choosing not to/not getting a chance to watch/rewatch it, or due to a general lack of differing opinion or lack of desire to engage in the usual banter over such a serious movie.  (Or maybe everyone is out shopping or otherwise enjoying the holidays, or just taking care of end of year business.  I put it on while I was grading finals, so I might have missed a chyron or two.)

Speaking as the person that looks like they're the only differing opinion (as in, I'm the one "No" vote so far)...

Short version: Primary reason. I've chosen to use this as an impetus to rewatch Lanzmann's documentary, Shoah (mentioned earlier in this thread and also in that roundtable Village Voice pdf I linked to).  Which I've had to break out to over multiple days (started late on Friday night) and still have another 2.5 hours to go.  And while I want to respond to some of the points of discussion in this thread, the downside to Shoah being 9.5 hours long is, subject material aside, that's a large time commitment, and lacking a good long term periodic rewatch strategy, I want to finish it off before really engaging in stuff here.

Secondary reasons:

Lots of errands this weekend.

If everyone is having a love fest for it, I feel there is an increase need to be more thoughtful in my replies.  And since I don't like the movie, I didn't rewatch it*, which will heavily limit my abilities to get into specifics (at this point, the movie has started to drift into vague memory on most of the details) and will mostly stick to high level meta-discussions, which seems to be venturing into discussions less about the movie itself.

* I felt the time would be better spent doing something else, and hence, I decided to use the time for a Shoah rewatch.

Share this post


Link to post
1 hour ago, WatchOutForSnakes said:

One thing I've been wanting to discuss is that I can't quite put my finger on whey Schindler's List became the introduction to the Jewish story and the Holocaust? 

Maybe it's an age or geographic thing, but I thought Elie Wiesel's Night was.

Age, because I think we read Night in school before Schindler's List came out.

Geographic, because, maybe required reading on this in California is different than the rest of the country (e.g. I'd expect Farewell to Manzanar isn't on every syllabus in high schools or middle schools across the country, for both state political leanings, but also geographic proximity and demographics affected).

Share this post


Link to post
53 minutes ago, WatchOutForSnakes said:

One thing I've been wanting to discuss is that I can't quite put my finger on whey Schindler's List became the introduction to the Jewish story and the Holocaust? 

Yeah, this is interesting to me as well, both from an education point of view and from a more pop culture and filmmaking point of view.

I was shocked when they told the story on the podcast of a U.S. History class that didn't cover the Holocaust because the teacher determined it wasn't relevant enough to the U.S.  But, having also been too young to see it in theaters, all of my education about the Holocaust came in a post-Schindler's List world, so I have a lot of questions about how people were taught in the 70s and 80s.  Though I can't exactly recall all the details, my feeling is that I learned the broad strokes of the story of the Holocaust at the same time as I first learned about Hitler, because the idea of wanting to kill people for being different is the kind of simplistic villainy that any child can understand as being wrong.  But in addition to exposure through early middle school history lessons, we also read the play version of The Diary of Anne Frank in 8th grade English and we read Elie Wiesel's Night in 10th grade.  Those texts were available in the 70s and 80s, so were they taught?  And if not, why not?

From a film history point of view, it's probably been more heavily studied.  That is, despite the fact that nearly every single major Hollywood film studio in the 1900s and 1910s was founded by Jewish immigrants or first-generation American offspring of Jewish immigrants, there were and have been relatively few popular films that were about being Jewish, and I imagine that there are articles I could read that would explain why.  (Sure, comedians like Mel Brooks or Woody Allen used their Jewish heritage as punchlines at times, and Bible-era stories just as Ben-Hur or The Ten Commandments focused heavily on the Judaism of that time.  Later, Fiddler on the Roof and Yentl were fairly popular films about the early 1900s in Russia and Poland respectively.)  But without reading those articles, I would think there's probably some systemic reason why this didn't happen, and why prominent Jewish directors such as Billy Wilder, William Wyler, Miloš Forman, or George Cukor never made any films about the Holocaust.  Of the films with big name directors about the Holocaust that were made before Schindler's List, the only one completely about life in concentration camps that I can see is Geroge Stevens' version of The Diary of Anne Frank, which seems to have been mostly a box-office flop.  Then, like Sophie's Choice, there are films mostly about the aftermath of the Holocaust that only include camps in flashbacks or memories, such as Fred Zinnemann's The Search (1948), Otto Preminger's Exodus (1960), and Sidney Lumet's The Pawnbroker (1964).  So it really was a big deal that a director like Spielberg, who had four previous films nominated for Oscars and who had released the highest grossing film of all-time just months prior, made this film that was entirely about the Holocaust.

Share this post


Link to post
42 minutes ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

I think we read Night in school before Schindler's List came out.

That answers one question I had.

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×