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Schindler's List

Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire. 

Year: 1993 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is expected to have certain elements which are subtitled, but it is not expected that the entire film will contain them. 
Directed by Steven Speilberg, 
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagall.  
An image from Schindler's List

The true story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who rescued thousands of Polish Jews from the very jaws of death at Auschwitz, Schindler’s List is regarded by many to be Spielberg’s Magnus Opus, and a film with few comparable contemporaries.

Schindler arrives in Poland, shortly after the Nazi occupation of the country, to run a factory using cheap Polish labour, but on the recommendation of the local Nazi commander soon switches to using Jewish residents of the Krakow ghetto who are not paid at all. While initially enjoying his new wealth and influence, Schindler suffers a change of heart when the SS arrive to clear the ghetto and deport its occupants to the death camp at Auschwitz and he begins a daring attempt to evacuate as many of his workers as possible away from the Nazi’s final solution in the camps of eastern Europe. The film follows Schindler’s increasingly desperate attempts to buy the freedom of his workers from the corrupt Nazi’s, ultimately spending his fortune in the process but redeeming himself in the eyes of the Jews he arrived in Poland to exploit.

Schindler’s List is one of those Spielberg films which manages to not only match but actually exceed the hype around it. Spielberg confessed that this was an intensely personal film, and that he cried every day while filming it, and that he accepted the project without pay, describing a wage for the film as being like ‘blood money’. The importance with which he viewed the film undoubtedly comes across in the considered script and intense direction, shot largely in grainy black and white, using handheld cameras.

Spielberg expected Schindler’s List to flop in the cinemas, an understandable expectation given its almost unremitting bleakness. In fact it made almost four hundred million dollars, took seven academy awards and earned itself a place as one of the seminal films about treatment of the Jews during the Holocaust, only to be matched years later by Polanski’s The Pianist.

Lewis Bush

For those who find the title "A Steven Spielberg Film" a reason to turn the page, stop there. 'Schindler's List' is not a traditional Spielberg film, in the cliched sense of the phrase. You will find no sloppy sentimentality here, no feel-good Hollywood money-spinning. This is: a strinkingly impersonal foray into the dark world of the holocaust that has shaken even the most cynical viewers worldwide.

September, 1939. As Polish Jews are rounded up by the invading Germans, Austrian entrepreneur Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) comes to Krakow to seek his fortune. He takes over a confiscated enamelware business and gets the right to suppy the German army, thus securing his fortunes. He staffs the factory with unpaid jewish workers, unaware that his accountant, Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) has quietly turned the factory into a haven for Jewish refugees.

By March 1941, when the Jews are forced into a ghetto in the city's Podgorze district, Schindler is a very rich man, bribing Nazis left, right and centre to keep his factory open and his workforce complete.

SS Commandent Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) arrives in Krakow to set up the Plaszow forced labour camp; the ghetto is destroyed and survivors are herded into the camp. Horrified at the brutality as well as at his empty factory, Schindler makes friends with Goeth, persuading him to allow the building of a sub-camp at the factory. Despite the huge risk of such illegal activity, he buys the safety of individual Jews from Goeth's murderous outbursts.

Schindler faces a moral dilemma: with such riches at your disposal, would you spend them on trying to save just a few lives? Schindler himself remains a puzzling enigma in the face of his question: he does what he does to save the Jews, but we never know exactly why.

The film is an almost universal exploration of human reactions, alongside the portrayal of the holocaust.

Remarkable acting from Neeson as the cool, calculating Schindler, and from the brilliant Kingsley, as the men who risked so very much, are set against terrible ice-mania of Ralph Fiennes' Amon Goeth, a German whose violence and brutality leave a tangible fear in his audience.

As Spielberg, receiving one of his seven Oscars, said of them: "This is the drink of water after the longest drought of my life"; it could also be said that Schindler's List is the long overdue irrigation of the otherwise poor soil of Hollywood's history.


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Screenings of this film:

1994/1995 Autumn Term (35mm)
1994/1995 Autumn Term (35mm)
1994/1995 Autumn Term (35mm)
1994/1995 Summer Term (35mm)
1994/1995 Summer Term (35mm)
1996/1997 Spring Term (35mm)
2004/2005 Autumn Term (35mm)
2008/2009 Autumn Term (35mm)
2011/2012 Spring Term (35mm)
2014/2015 Spring Term (digital)