Spielberg's 'Schindler's List' marks 20th anniversary
05:00 AM, Mar 09, 2013
Rarely does a box office hit have such a profound emotional impact on its audience that it resonates long after the viewing is done. But Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed black-and-white masterpiece Schindler’s List did just that. The stark drama about Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who risked his own life and fortune to save more than 1,100 Polish Jews during the Holocaust by giving them work in his factories, is considered one of the best films ever made.
Schindler’s List 20th Anniversary Limited Edition (1993, Universal, R, $23; Blu-ray, $35), whose meticulous restoration was overseen by Spielberg himself, is now available in pristine high-definition for home video.
Liam Neeson stars as Schindler, a Nazi Party member who comes to Krakow, Poland, hoping to get rich off of the war. He opens a factory to make goods for the German war effort, but needs the help of his Jewish accountant (Ben Kingsley) to run it. Germany has moved Polish refugees to the city and sent psychotic Schutzstaffel officer Amon Goth (Ralph Fiennes) to build a concentration camp. Initially, Schindler hires the Polish Jews as cheap labor, but as he witnesses the increasing brutality of Nazis, he uses his influence to keep as many of his workers as he can from being sent to their deaths in Auschwitz.
The film was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, winning seven including best picture, adapted screenplay, cinematography, art direction, film editing, original score (John Williams) and director for Spielberg. Neeson and Fiennes were nominated for best actor and supporting actor, respectively. For Spielberg who basically invented the summer blockbuster with films like Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jurassic Park Schindler’s List meant a higher level of artistic respect.
Spielberg first became interested in the Holocaust story 10 years earlier, when his mentor, then-MCA president Sid Sheinberg, sent him a copy of a New York Times book review of Australian author Thomas Keneally’s 1982 novel Schindler’s Ark. Keneally had written the book after talking to Poldek Pfefferberg, who survived the Holocaust thanks to Schindler. At the time, Spielberg didn’t think he had the maturity or gravitas to make a movie about the topic, and tried to convince other directors to do it. He did, however, meet with Pfefferberg, who was credited under the name Leopold Page when the film was made years later. The film was shot in 1993 at actual locations in Krakow, though filmmakers had to rebuild the prison camp.
Among the bonus features? is a documentary with the director talking about how making the film inspired him to establish the USC Shoah Foundation The Institute for Visual History and Education. Since 1994, the organization has collected more than 50,000 videotaped interviews with survivors and other witnesses to the Holocaust. The archive is used as a basis for numerous college courses and other educational programs. Another documentary, Voices from the List, features testimonies from some of those who were saved by Oskar Schindler.