Writing this review was extremely difficult because I knew I had to find the correct words. I had to get it right. SCHINDLER’S LIST first premiered in February 1994. It has been a long time since I last watched this movie. To be quite honest, I was scared. I did not want to confront my heritage and my lack of ancestry. About five years ago, I paid Ancestry.com to find my people… my long-lost family. When the results arrived, I knew deep in my heart what they would say before I even read the results. On my father’s side, I am second-generation Polish. On my mother’s side, I am also a second-generation Romanian. My family tree cannot be traced beyond both sets of my grandparents. The genealogy line just ends. It is a harsh fact to learn in black and white, even though I was told this by my parents since I was a child. Our lineage was interrupted by the Holocaust. It is a fact.

When Poland was liberated at the end of WWII, only 4,000 Jewish Polish people were left. This is a fact. I went to see SCHINDLER’S LIST for the first time with my fiancé and dear friend from my teaching days. I had to know if I could get emotionally through the film before I brought my son. I remember sitting between William (fiancé) and Andy (friend) and just sobbing. They held my hands. It cut my heart in half, but I knew it was important to “witness” these events from our history. I knew I could not turn away.

The second time I saw SCHINDLER’S LIST, I sat beside my son, Aaron, and my parents. I held their hands and cried with them once more. When I saw this film again for the third time, I sat alone in my living room, shedding quiet tears streaming down my cheeks. I turn 74 in a few days and realize I have a different perspective now. This movie had to be made. It had to remind the world what horrendous atrocities humans can commit. It is still appropriate for people today with the continued rise of antisemitism. We must be aware of how easy it is to “not see” what is going on around the world. Watching SCHINDLER’S LIST helps me stand stronger for all humanity. I will celebrate my birthday and honor all those before me who never was allowed to complete their lives. I feel gratitude for my past and my future descendants. SCHINDLER’S LIST is an extraordinary resounding ovation for life and how one person can make a difference. 

Steven Spielberg directed SCHINDLER’S LIST. He said he had to wait ten years before he would film it because he felt he needed to have an older perspective and more experience. It was filmed in just 72 days and has grossed over $300 million. Spielberg donated all royalties and residuals to the SHOAH Foundation. Anything less would have felt like taking “blood money.” The film was created in black and white with just two colorful exceptions. One was during the liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto in Poland. There were a few seconds where audiences watched a small, young girl in a red coat continually walk through the dead bodies and destruction. She even walked among the German soldiers. It is as if she is invisible to those around her. She walks to her home, crawls under her bed, and puts her hands over her ears. This scene comes from a memory Audrey Hepburn had as a child. She “witnessed” this moment and told Spielberg. He had to put it in the story. The second moment of color comes at the end of the film when the war is over, and the survivors are standing on a hilltop, moving toward their future. From this point, SCHINDLER’S LIST stays bright and colorful. Spielberg was known to storyboard all his projects in detail. This was the only one he did not “plan ahead.” Most of the camera work used handheld equipment. Spielberg and his amazing cinematographer, Janusz Kamiński, worked to ensure a shadowing effect, especially between good and evil. Each night Spielberg watched episodes of SEINFELD to raise his spirits and face another day. He even was in touch with Robin Williams for some evening laugh relief. 

SCHINDLER’S LIST won seven Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Screenplay, Editing, Art Direction, and Original Score. John Williams created the haunting music for this film. It is said when he first read the script, he left the room and cried. Itzhak Perlman was asked to be the solo violinist. He has said it was his greatest honor to play this score. I was lucky enough to attend an Itzhak Perlman concert a couple of years ago. He played SL’s theme song, and when he finished, there wasn’t a dry eye in the 1600-seat theatre. 

SCHINDLER’S LIST stars Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler, a rich German, spoiled womanizer, and businessman. He is only interested in making money and always wants more. He sees the advantage of using Jews to work at his munitions factory because Jews don’t receive a salary. Cheap labor. He chooses Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) to be his right-hand man and oversee all operations. He is a Jew as well. What Schindler does not expect is how he changes and evolves. At first, it was all about the deal. Pulling one over on his competition and taking in the money, but as the years pass, Schindler realizes the value of a life is more important. He cannot give himself away to the Nazis. He lives a guarded life, double-edged existence as he deals with one of the worst Nazi officers, Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes.) The chemistry between these three actors is phenomenal. The level of acting and reacting, the slow, pausing beats, and the total encompassing of these three characters were mind-blowing. It felt like viewers were invited to walk along a tightrope. Evil versus trying to do the right thing even before you realize how near impossible that is during the war. SCHINDLER’S LIST is comprised of 1100 souls who are saved. It is a testament to what any one person can accomplish. 

There are so many heart-stopping moments in SL. The sound of the train carrying hundreds of humans to their final destination…the mounds of shoes, clothing, suitcases, Jewish menorahs, Sabbath candlesticks, and jewelry. The gold is removed from teeth, and hair being shorn away. Desperate people shove precious stones into pieces of bread and then swallow them. Men, women, and children are being shot for no reason. Piles of bodies strewn across streets and concentration camps. The human ash continually rains down from the crematorium at Auschwitz. The beatings and the utter fear of death. Spielberg created a film filled with despair. He took you inside this insidious period. It was real, raw, and shook me to my core. I believed these actors were who they portrayed. I believed in their breakdowns and triumphs. I will never get the scene where we “witness” row after row of despondent faces, emotionless yet petrified of everyone around them. How could they endure their inevitable death? For six generations, there was always a Jewish population in Krakow. Then there were none. This is a fact. 

The scene that devastates me the most is when the war is over, and Schindler must flee. He is, after all, a part of the Nazi Regime even though he worked to save lives. He is surrounded by the “essential workers” from his munitions factory. They hand him a letter signed by everyone in case he is ever caught. Stern hands him a gold ring engraved with the Hebrew words taken from the Talmud, “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” Schindler breaks down sobbing in his old friend’s arms, “I could have done more.” All of us could. This is a fact. 

Once in a lifetime, a masterpiece of filmmaking is “witnessed.” This is SCHINDLER’S LIST. It is brilliantly choreographed and designed. It is triumphant, remarkable, intensely powerful, and moving. It defines the horror of Hitler’s final solution with only mentioning his name twice in the entire three-hour movie. Six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. Six thousand descendants came from SCHINDLER’S LIST. This is power and hope. This is a fact. SCHINDLER’S LIST is a classic of the highest caliber for all humanity. “Never again…”

SCHINDLER’S LIST can be rented or purchased from Prime Video.  

Esta Rosevear

Esta Rosevear has been a Theatre Arts teacher and director for 35+ years, published Children’s author of the Rebecca series, and is passionate about playing her violin, walking, gardening, and reading murder mysteries.

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