l i l l L 14 The List 25 February—10 March 1994
The best and worst of man
Has the box-office wunderkind finally made a mature and serious film? Trevor Johnston assesses Steven Spielberg’s Schindler ’.s List.
The hair will eventually disintegrate. The clothes will rot. The shoes will fall to pieces. The camps themselves may tumble to the ground. But Steven Spielberg‘s Schindler is List will stand as a monument for the world and the world‘s future generations to see: here is the darkest hollow of a century marked by the technological advancement of slaughter. The worst of man.
In a y lay. it beggars belief that the maker of a soulless. clever entertainment like Jurassic Park should have given us a piece of film that transcends the commercial marketplace. the roar of the critics and the hype of ()scar time, yet .S'irlriniller's Us! stands not just as a ‘good' movie. but what is far rarer. a genuinely important one. It may well be that only a filmmaker so consistently breasting the box office's highest echelons could gain the studio clout to assemble a three-hour-plus. black-and—white chronicle of the Holocaust with no ‘stars’ and some ofthe most deeply upsetting footage ever to come out of Hollywood. But the word ‘Spielberg‘. with all its glitzy associations. leaves you positively unprepared for the restrained and cornpellingly honest end result. From a man who reduced Alice Walker's The Colour Purple to glowing pulp, ground J. G. Ballard’s Empire rift/1e Sun to mini-series level and inflicted the casually gutless Indiana Jones and the Temple ()fl)omn on a gullibly appreciative w orltl. it‘s a creative U-tum without parallel. Quite simply. were the credits to be removed, you would never in a million years believe .S'r'ltinrller Is [is] was a Spielberg ﬁlm. It‘s certainly one to silence the detractors.
Schindler’s List stands not just as a ‘good’ movie, but what is far rarer, a genuinely important one.
The story by now is familiar. Adapted from Thomas Keneally‘s factually-based Booker-winning novel. Schindler is List traces the exploits of Austrian-born industrialist Oskar Schindler. a gambler. wornaniser and Nazi Party member who lost his entire personal fortune and risked his own skin by hiring an increasing number of Jewish workers in his Krakow
the extent of diverting his employees from the journey to .»'\uschwit/,. he eventually transported over a thousand people out of Poland. undoubtedly saving their lives in the process.
While it’s a film to discuss and debate, not least because of Ralph Fiennes’s extraordinary chilling portrayal of Nazi camp commandant Amon Goeth, it’s first of all a film to be seen.
Quite how. or even why he barnboo/led the Na/i authorities into letting hint get away with lllls grandiose act of compassion at it time when Wermacht officers had ruthlessly liquidated the men. women and children of the Krakow Jewish quarter. remains a mystery. It‘s one of the key strengths of Spielberg‘s lilrn and Liam Nceson‘s remarkable central performance that the celluloid Schindler largely preserves the sense ol‘enigma. 'l'he Spielberg canon has previously thrown up reluctant heroes like Roy Scheider's police chief in .liors, Richard Dreyfuss‘s visionary obsessive in (low lint-oiin/i'rs rill/1e l'ln'ril Kind and even the grudgingly positive John Malkovich character from linipire all/re Sun.
but nowhere in his work have the human capacity for good and the human capacity for evil co-existed in such complete proximity. lt‘s significant perhaps that the image of two hands reaching out to touch each
i other should have been featured on the poster for li'l' ~ the Extra 'l‘errcstrial and now .S't‘liinil/er Ts List. for
1 both films. though miles apart in many respects. key
metalwork factories. Flaunting the ‘Final Solution' to into those most basic emotions of care and concern
. Lspmzsored by BACARDI BLACK
Oscar nominees Ralph Fiennes (I) and liam Neeson (r)
Ralph Fiennes: ‘chilling portrayal‘