schindlers list blu ray 


MOVIE: Emotional Spielberg classic   

PICTURE: Excellent   

SOUND: Excellent  

TECH SPECS: 1.85:1/DTS-HD Master Audio   

RELEASE DATE: March 5, 2013  

By William Kallay

"Schindler's List" is perhaps Steven Spielberg's most magnificent and important film. Hugely talented in entertaining audiences, as well as making them cry, Spielberg has been one of those rare film directors with the capability of going from one filmmaking extreme to another. He could illicit laughs, tears, intensity, and awe inspiring magic. In making "Schindler's List," Spielberg gained respect from his harshest critics and made audiences sit up and take him seriously as a filmmaker.

Very few feature films have taken on the subject of the Holocaust. "Night and Fog" (1955) was a very early look at the Holocaust which used actual footage from the Nazi concentration camps. It was a terribly disturbing look at the atrocities of the Nazis. The film was too short to be considered a feature film, but it helped audiences see the horror that many Jews experienced. "The Diary of Anne Frank" (1959) was a feature film adaption of the famous book. Mostly, though, Hollywood filmmakers have shied away from the subject.

When Spielberg decided to turn Thomas Keneally's book into a feature film, most of Spielberg's critics raised an eyebrow. How could this filmmaker of pop films make a serious movie about the Holocaust? Spielberg was interested in making "Schindler's List" as far back as 1982. That summer, he released "Poltergeist" and "E.T. The Extra-terrestrial." Audiences loved the films, but some of his most ardent critics dismissed the films as pop. As Spielberg grew older, he matured more as a filmmaker. "The Color Purple" (1985) and "Empire of the Sun" (1987) demonstrated his maturity and his desire to prove critics wrong. He could make mature films for adults. Still, some of his peers saw him as unready to be a mature filmmaker.

In watching Spielberg's earliest films, it is difficult to escape his mastery of storytelling and his confidence behind the camera. It is also difficult to dismiss his maturity early on. "The Sugarland Express" (1974), "Jaws" (1975), and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977) clearly show Spielberg's command of adult themes. Each one of those films weigh the problems and issues of growing up and handling scary situations. "Express" placed a young couple caught in a bad situation with the law. "Jaws" placed three men in the middle of the Atlantic to figure out how to kill a great white shark. "CE3K" gave an unhappy family man the decision on whether to stay on earth, or go into outer space.

By the time Spielberg made "Schindler's List," he had established himself as the most powerful filmmaker of all time. Most of his films made millions, but very few of his peers and critics saw him making anything of so-called substance. "Schindler's List" surprised everyone by being chilling, historically accurate, charming, funny, and emotionally devastating. Audiences left theaters in tears, trying to figure out their own feelings about the Holocaust. They were moved, and for some, haunted for days. Spielberg's most harsh critics realized they might have underestimated his filmmaking skills. He had made a truly magnificent film.

I don't believe that Spielberg was trying to prove his critics wrong in making "Schindler's List." With "The Color Purple" and "Empire of the Sun," I believe, in some ways, he was trying to prove that he could make mature films. Not with "Schindler's List." This was a personal story for him. This was a story he wanted and had to tell.

The film looks like a documentary that would've been made during the 1940s.Shot in black-and-white, it shows us the reality and horror of the Holocaust in brutal detail. Spielberg does not hold back any of the murders or cruelty that the Nazis imposed upon the Jews. No matter how many times I've seen this film, I am always shocked by every horrific moment. The so-called cleansing of the ghetto. The old man with one arm. The woman's "shower" scene at Auschwitz. I have left this film with sadness over what happened to so many innocent people. I have left this film with anger toward the Nazis.

When I was in junior high, we watched "Night and Fog." The real images of the Holocaust always stayed with me. Although "Schindler's List" was a Hollywood production, it resonates as if it was an actual documentary. It is very reminiscent of "Night and Fog." We experience the atrocities seemingly first hand because Spielberg places us square inside of the time period. His choice to film in black-and-white with occasional color cues is extremely powerful. Nothing about "Shindler's List" is romanticized, with the exception of the earliest scenes of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson). 

During junior high, I read about the showers and the ovens. I read about the pointless killings. Some of my peers were typical teenagers and some laughed at the horror as we watched "Night and Fog." I was shocked at their coldness and immaturity. I wonder if any of my peers saw "Schindler's List" and laughed. I hope they matured.

This film takes my own images of what I read about the Holocaust and puts them up on the screen. It is a film that aligns with my own impression of this horrific time. Every time I've watched the film, I want to look away from what Spielberg shows me, yet I cannot. It's a film that grabs you and doesn't let go until the final fade out.

The cast is brilliant. Liam Neeson had been in a number of films prior to "Schindler's List," but he takes command here. He is truly the playboy and businessman that Oskar Schindler must have been. Despite his vices for women, alcohol and working with the Nazi party, we become quickly endeared to him because we know he wants to save as many people as possible. He is a man of dual personalities, but a man with a heart.

Ralph Fiennes was quite the discovery in this film. He is brutal, calculated, stone cold, and entirely vulnerable. He portrays his character of Amon Goeth as a unpredictable monster, and that's how I imagine he was. Nazi commanders were killers and saw people as no higher than animals. This is made clear in some of the sequences that Goeth arbitrarily shots innocent Jews in the concentration camp. These are made even more horrifying when Goeth lets his guard down when it comes to his infatuation with his maid, Helen Hirsch (Embeth Davidtz).

Ben Kingsley is powerful in his quiet role as Itzhak Stern, Schindler's bookkeeper. He plays his role with understated strength, even though we feel he could be taken by the Nazis at any moment. It's part of the tension Spielberg creates so well. Kingsley portrays Stern with so much quiet strength.         

The Blu-ray picture quality is excellent. Janusz Kaminski's cinematography captures the time period perfectly. There was a lot of handheld camerawork in this film, but it's never exaggerated as many of today's films are. He brings out the tragedy of the Holocaust in vivid detail and causes the audience to watch, no matter how bad things become in the film. The "digitally restored" transfer is breathtaking and leaves in the film grain and starkness of Kaminski's cinematography intact.     

The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is excellent. This was one of the earliest DTS Sound titles. DTS was put on the map with Spielberg's own "Jurassic Park" earlier in 1993 as a way of fitting six channels of sound onto a 35mm print. Before the format came about, six-channel mixes were placed on 70mm prints. Dolby Digital hit the market in 1992, predating DTS, but DTS essentially spelled the end of 70mm prints that were common during the 1980s and early-1990s. I'm sure had digital sound not come around, it's possible that "Schindler's List" would have gone out in 70mm. That being said, the soundtrack is very powerful. John Williams' score is lush and dialogue is clear. Gunshots are extremely powerful on the soundtrack. In one of the most haunting scenes, I have never jumped out of my chair when Goeth fires his shotgun until now. I'm not sure if this particular sound effect was remixed for the Blu-ray, but it certainly startled me for the first time.         

There have been hundreds of films, both based on fiction and non-fiction, about World War II. Many have been powerful and emotional, but none of them has moved me as much as "Schindler's List." I cannot believe it's been twenty years since I first saw this film in a crowded theater. I clearly remember walking out of the theatre drained. The film stayed with me and it always will. Spielberg has so many masterpieces in his career, but "Schindler's List" is his most perfect.        

Special thanks to Jackie Cavanagh/MPRM Communications

Photo: © Universal Pictures. All rights reserved.   
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