It's fitting that Steven Spielberg's masterpiece Schindler's List is having its 25th anniversary at a time when the world is experiencing a resurgence of Nazism; a time when a corrupt white supremacist is in the White house, and the far right is a dominating force in British politics. It's a timely reminder of just what can happen if the world sits back and lets evil flourish and take hold.
There's very little to be said about Schindler's List that hasn't been said in the past 25 years. Based on the novel Schindler's Ark by Australian national treasure Thomas Keneally – who also wrote The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Moses the Lawgiver and The Daughters of Mars – the film tells the true story of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a German businessman from Czechoslovakia who saved the lives of around 1,100 mostly Polish Jews by employing them in his factories during World War II. Schindler is somewhat of an antihero for much of the film; a member of the Nazi Party, he initially seeks to profit from the construction of the Kraków ghetto, and uses his relationship with the party to gain favours and build a staff of mainly Jewish slave-workers. But as the war goes on, the Nazi Holocaust moves to the foreground, Schindler realises that he must do what he can to save as many people as possible from the death camps.
It's also the story of SS officer Amon Göth (Ralph Fiennes in his first major film role), a man of pure evil who oversees the Kraków-Płaszów force labour (later concentration) camp from which Schindler draws many of his workers. We know exactly what kind of man he is when we see him standing on the balcony of his chalet, which overlooks the camp from a hillside, and shooting Jews for target practice. He is, of course, quite insane; and he is clearly a symbol of the madness of war and the evil insanity of the Holocaust itself.
On its release, Schindler's List was critically acclaimed and went on to win seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. It's the film that turned Steven Spielberg from a "popular" filmmaker of popcorn fare such as Jurassic Park, Jaws, E.T. and the Indiana Jones trilogy into a more serious one. In a recent interview about this rerelease of Schindler's List, Spielberg said he considered his film to be be more important now than when it was released, due to the rise in hate crimes, hate speech and propaganda. "I think there’s more at stake today than even back then," he said. "I think it's just that — you know, hate has become less of — hate's less parenthetical today, it's more a headline. But when collective hate organizes and gets industrialised, then genocide follows." Now, more than ever, we need to learn the lessons of history else we repeat them.
This 25th anniversary rerelease sees the film restored for high definition from the original negative, and comes with a collection of new bonus material (detailed below). The performances are outstanding, particularly Neeson and Fiennes in the two lead roles, but Ben Kingsley also shines as Schindler's right-hand man Itzhak Stern. And this high-definition transfer is glorious in its stark black-and-white. Schindler's List is a beautiful, powerful and moving film that, while often difficult to watch, is a film that everyone does need to see.
EXTRAS: Schindler's List contains no bonus material the first disc in this Blu-ray package – it's just the film itself. Alll the extras are on the second, Bonus disc, which consists of: the new featurette Schindler's List 25 Years Later (39:56), an on-stage discussion after a screening of the film at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2018 that includes Steven Spielberg and cast members Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Caroline Goodall and Embeth Davidtz. It's fascinating to see Spielberg and his actors reflect on the production itself, as well as the film's importance; Voices from the List (1:17:30), which features testimony form Holocaust survivors who were saved by Oskar Schindler; USC Shoah Foundation Story with Steven Spielberg (4:55); Let Their Testimonies Speak – Stronger Than Hate (3:50), in which Spielberg and others talk of the importance of love in a world of hate and violence; and About IWitness (4:03), a look at the educational website developed by the USC Shoah Foundation.