Twenty-five years ago Steven Spielberg released the most surprising movie of his career. SCHINDLER’S LIST told the story of the Holocaust for a mass audience — and became both a massive commercial success and a critical favorite. It won the Best Picture Oscar, and Spielberg won Best Director. More importantly, it is an essential account of a horrifying event that must be remembered.
Universal and AMC will be partnering to bring back SCHINDLER’S LIST in Dolby Cinema at AMC for it’s 25th Anniversary, on December 7. The re-release couldn’t come at a better time. Our memory of and vigilance against situations that led to the Holocaust are vital, and stories like the one in Spielberg’s movie are a crucial part of that process.
And it’s just a great movie, with wonderful performances that might make you see the world differently.
Oskar Schindler, Unlikely Hero
Oskar Schindler, played by Liam Neeson, was a businessman and member of the Nazi Party who set up business in Kraków, Poland, during World War II. He hired a local Jewish man, Itzhak Stern (played by Ben Kingsley), with deep connections. Stern helped Schindler with financing and hiring. He recruited many local Jewish workers, ostensibly because they were cheaper, but in fact because the jobs keep them from being transported to concentration camps.
Schindler begins the film as an accidental hero. He only helps people because doing so helps his bottom line. His humanitarian awakening, however, is a big part of the film’s emotional arc. Neeson and Kingsley, and the rest of the film’s cast, express the power of hope and persistence.
Making Horror Accessible
Spielberg spoke to EW during a look back at the film. “When the film initially came out, it made one of the most incomprehensible acts of humankind accessible. It didn’t make it understandable, but reachable to audiences to be able explore it, to be moved in such a way to want to stand against all hatred, and know it is real and what can shockingly happen in the 20th and now the 21st centuries if we are not vigilant.”
The incredible thing is that this movie came into being at the same time as Spielberg’s other big 1993 release, JURASSIC PARK. In fact, the director would shoot SCHINDLER’S LIST during the day and edit JURASSIC PARK at night. Perhaps editing the dinosaur movie was an escape from the heavy material shot each day. Spielberg has spoken several times in the past two decades about how difficult SCHINDLER’S LIST was to shoot — watching the film, it’s easy to see why.
The film was also the first time Spielberg worked with cinematographer Janusz Kamiński. That partnership must also have made the shoot easier, as the pair continue to collaborate. They’ve done seventeen more films together since 1993, including recent releases THE POST and READY PLAYER ONE. In fact, Kamiński has shot every one of Spielberg’s theatrical features since they first worked together — a remarkable run that rivals any other creative pairing in movie history.
One of the most beautiful things about SCHINDER’S LIST is not even the film itself. It’s Spielberg’s follow-through. The documentary-inspired look of the movie was influenced in part by Claude Lanzmann’s landmark film SHOAH. That nine-hour documentary, featuring extensive interviews with survivors, is perhaps the most significant film about the Holocaust.
Ironically, Lanzmann criticized Spielberg. He believed that fictionalizing any part of the story was unacceptable, and that actors could not properly portray the reality of the Holocaust. Spielberg funneled some of the profits from his film into the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, which funds documentaries and collects testimonies from survivors of genocide. The director calls that work “the film’s most enduring legacy.”
Universal and AMC will be partnering to bring back SCHINDLER’S LIST in Dolby Cinema at AMC for it’s 25th Anniversary.