I’m in a unique position to review Schindler’s List on blu-ray as not only is it the first time the title has been available in glorious HD, but until now I was one of the 7 people on earth to not have seen it (the other 6 have now kicked me out of that particular douchebag coven).
So let’s start off with the transfer: Wow! Spielberg personally oversaw the HD upgrade and it shows. Much like last year’s blu-ray release of Jaws the image and sound have been lovingly enhanced, in this case making the most of the sombre black and white palette. There are many close shots of the myriad captured Jewish workers that take on the detail of the best and most iconic war photography, this stands as one of the many reasons black and white was the best choice for this film.
In terms of the film itself I don’t really feel qualified enough to write a review. This is more than just a film; it’s an experience, and one that is essential. At all points during the 3 hour running time you are aware of the importance of this work. I have always believed that films should be taught as compulsory education in schools, just as much as books and Schindler’s List is one of the many reasons why. Not only does it convey the horrific reality of Nazi genocide but also teaches lessons of oppression, empathy, loss, hope and the importance of doing what is right even in the face of indeterminable odds.
“He who saves one life, saves the world entire”
This is Spielberg at his absolute best; utilising his renowned skills in terms of pacing and narrative structure but upping the ante in terms of restraint and sheer emotional impact. Unusually for Spielberg a lot of the restraint comes in the form of musical choices. He and John Williams agreed on a much more minimal approach to the score. Its haunting authentic melodies are only heard in a select number of key moments, which gives them a great deal more weight and at times leaves the largely score-less film feeling more like a documentary; distant glimpses of nazis shooting prisoners in the head at close range prove particularly visceral and disturbing.
This is a film that makes you ask “how?” How the hell did any of this actually happen? Of course the history books will give you a thorough explanation but that still doesn’t give a satisfying emotional sense of understanding. It just doesn’t make any sense based on the world we know today, and yet it was less than a hundred years ago.
The above paragraph is proof of why I don’t feel this film should be reviewed, but rather discussed and debated, preferably in classrooms up and down the country. It genuinely goes beyond film making and steps into something that should make up part of our beings. So whilst I am of course going to give it 5 stars and say that this is one of the greatest cinematic works of all time, featuring performances of a lifetime from Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes (which is saying something), I would urge you to ignore this and any review of Schindler’s List; just talk about it, think about it and let the evil realities of our very recent history show you just what humans are capable of, before realising that even in the darkest moments there is always hope.