“Schindler’s List”, which celebrates its 20th Anniversary on November 30, is a powerful movie based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a German philanderer, member of the Nazi Party, and war profiteer whose life took an unpredictable turn during World War II’s darkest hours.
Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-winning movie shows how Schindler’s desire to make money from Hitler's European war slowly but irrevocably morphed into a desire to save over a thousand of his Jewish labor force from the Nazis' genocidal Final Solution, “Schindler’s List” is a powerfully moving film.
Because it’s set during the Holocaust, “Schindler’s List” never flinches from the inhumanity of Hitler's willing executioners. There are all sorts of terrible things going on in here, including torture, manhunts, mass executions, and random acts of cruelty. However, it also touches on Spielberg’s belief that decency and righteousness can triumph over even the most implacable tyranny and hatred.
Working from Steven Zaillian's adaptation of the fact-based novel by Thomas Kenneally, Spielberg chose to film “Schindler’s List” in black and white because most of the documentaries, records and photographs he had seen were in black and white. As a result, whenever he does use color, especially in the key "Special Aktion" sequence.
Here, Schindler (Liam Neeson) catches a glimpse of a single scarlet-clad girl as the Jews of the Krakow Ghetto are ruthlessly rounded up by SS troops. Spielberg draws the audience's and Schindler's attention on this single little girl by inserting the coat's red color into the otherwise stark shades of gray, black and white that dominate the film, (“Schindler’s List” is the most expensive black and white movie made to date, displacing Darryl F. Zanuck's 1962 war classic “The Longest Day”).
Spielberg also chose to shoot “Schindler’s List” on location in Krakow, Poland, painstakingly recreating the look and atmosphere of the period. A full scale set of Plaszow Labor Camp was built near the site of the real one from existing maps and blueprints.
In addition, a few scenes were filmed outside the infamous Auschwitz death camp.
Neeson's top notch performance is matched by those of Ralph Fiennes (SS Commandant Amon Goeth), Ben Kingsley (Itzhak Stern), and Caroline Goodall (as Schindler's long-suffering wife Emile), as well as Jonathan Sagalle and Embeth Davidtz.
Welsh actor Fiennes is outstanding as the homicidal and capricious SS commandant of the Plaszow labor camp, who thought nothing of picking up a rifle and using unwitting and unfortunate inmates for morning target practice.
“Schindler’s List” won popular and critical acclaim, winning seven Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director, Music, Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, and Art Direction. It is not only a fine example of filmmaking at its best, but it also serves as a memorial to the six million victims of the Holocaust. It also works well as a tribute to a flawed but righteous man who risked everything to save a handful of his fellow human beings from history's greatest criminal act.
The 2004 DVD presents Spielberg's 195 minute masterpiece on one double-sided disc in a digitally enhanced widescreen picture and 5.1 digital sound. The audio and video content are excellent, although fans of extra features may bemoan the lack of "the making of" behind-the-scenes featurettes present in other Spielberg-directed movies on DVD. Instead, there are two short documentaries "Voices From the List" and "The Shoah Foundation Story."
Universal Home Entertainment re-released “Schindler’s List” in a 2013 multi-format edition.
The “Schindler’s List: 20th Anniversary Limited Edition” is a three-disc set that presents the movie in four formats: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraViolet.
The Blu-ray edition is contained in its entirety on one BD disc, while the DVD edition is now presented in two single-sided DVDs. The specs for the Limited Edition include:
- Format: AC-3, Blu-ray, Color, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Limited Edition, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen, Multiple Formats
- Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (DTS 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
- Subtitles: French, Spanish
- Dubbed: French, Spanish
- Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
- Region: All Regions
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- Number of discs: 3