The Sacramento Bee from Sacramento, California on December 24, 1993 · 79
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The Sacramento Bee from Sacramento, California · 79

Sacramento, California
Issue Date:
Friday, December 24, 1993
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THE SACRAMENTO BEg FINAL December 24 1993 TICKET IS Spielberg makes a liarro wing masterpiece on the Holocaust V M litmaxmz-oz By Joe Baltake Bee Movie Critic A A FTith his brave new film y ' ' j Steven Spielberg not w only tackles a subject that’s largely been ignored by mainstream Hollywood but manages to handle it in an accessible pulpy way that doesn’t detract from the gravity of the material “Schindler’s List” based on Australian writer Thomas Ke-neally’s 1982 novel is one of many horrific stories about what is inarguably this century’s greatest crime - the Nazi persecution of Jews during World War II Adolf Hitler’s Final Solution - the methodically planned extermination of European Jewry - is something Hollywood has either avoided or dealt with circuitously At best you’d get something like George Stevens’ “The Diary of Anne Frank” (1959) a fine film which nevertheless left the painful moments the death camps and crematoriums off-screen along with the moral complexity Any documentation about the Holocaust has been left to books like Lucy Dawidowicz’s “The War Against the Jews” to such filmed oral histories as Marcel Ophuls’ ‘The Sorrow and the Pity” (1970) and Claude Lansmann’s “Shoah” (1985) and to European movies the most recent being Agnieszka Holland’s “Europa Europa” (1991) But now Spielberg has confronted the subject and without wincing or creating any safe distance between his audience and the horrors on the screen he’s created an exceptionally detailed look at one corner one story of the Holocaust succeeding by keeping it small and intimate and by shrewdly locating his story’s suspense He’s also managed to find one Holocaust story that has a reasonably happy ending offering some surcease from the pain “Schindler’s List” is about survivors and although Spielberg shot his movie in black and white often using a hand-held camera and thereby giving it the harsh look of a documentary or a foreign film (a Nazi home movie actually) his pacing is strictly American Spielberg who dealt with Nazis in his “Indiana Jones” trilogy but clearly in a different way definitely nurtures a cumulative feeling His first scene here in fact in which he introduces Oskar Schindler (played by Liam Nee- son) could actually be some- V To save his workers' daughters from thing from an “Indiana Jones” movie as it’s set in a movie-ish Krakow nightclub where the opportunistic industrialist Schindler courts Nazi officials getting ahead in business The year is 1939 and the Nazis are there to prepare Poland’s Jews for their descent into hell Men women and children are taken from their homes and relocated in the cramped self-contained Plaszow sub-camp before being shipped to “the largest graveyard in the world”: Auschwitz One man’s loss is another man’s gain Schindler appropriates one of the Jews’ luxury apartments for himself and comes up with the idea of taking over a formerly Jewish-owned enamel factory where by using Jewish slave labor he’ll produce field-kitchen equipment for the German army His need for available Jews is what unwittingly leads to this war profi- teer’s enlightenment and conversion: Oskar Schindler at first the death camp Liam Neesoa convinces an Schindler's List Cast: Liam Neeson Ben Kingsley Ralph Fiennes Caroline Goodall Jonathan Sagalle and Embeth Davidtz Director: Steven Spielberg Writer: Steven Zaillian (Screenplay based on a book by Thomas Keneally ) Cinematographer Janusz ’ Kaminski Composer: John Williams Distributor: Universal Running time: 195 minutes Opens Saturday at Century Rated R in order to run his factory and make money would save the lives of nearly 1100 Jews - 297 women and 801 men - survivor who came to call themselves Schindlerjuden Schindler’s list Ben Kinglsey gives an indelible performance as Itzhak Stern a quiet Jewish bookkeeper who becomes Schindler’s col SS guard that their tiny hands are needed to polish the laborator and friend Ralph Fiennes is even better as Amon Goeth the complex commandant of Plaszow But Neeson has problems One of the film’s minor flaws is that Schindler’s conversion never really takes place or at least not in the slow evolutionary way you’d expect Instead Spielberg films it artily as a recurring epiphenomenal moment involving a little girl in a red” coat who Schindler occasionally spots among groups of Jews and later sees dead her body at the top of a heap of other corpses The smudgy red of her coat which has a hand-tinted look is a commanding image among all the black and white Still the conceit is a little too easy and not worthy of the devastat- ing film that surrounds it Much of “Schindler’s List” has Spielberg doing what he’s always done best - putting the - squeeze on the’ emotions of his" audience only in a clearly dif inside of shell casings ferent way Instead of the big special effects we get small wrenching moments such as prisoners forced to extract gold teeth from their deceased peers screaming mothers running after truckloads of children being transported to their deaths and terrorized naked and half-starved Polish Jews being humiliated in every way possible and then arbitrarily shotM M - --" -VV - £‘ moments like this just happen often without warning and you never quite adjust to the shock or to the painful realization of the finality and sheer waste of it all Spielberg effectively produces the feeling of dread leaving us as devasted and as haunted as his characters He’s made more than a Holocaust movie - a thoughtful meditation on some very real and unfathomable memories that refuse to go ' away and can’t be resolve or ’ alas corrected

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