Every month or so, we continue down the of the Top 250 films on IMDB, and examine the top 5 scenes within one of the greatest films of all-time. To review, so far we’ve looked at:
1. Shawshank Redemption
2. The Godfather
3. The Godfather Part 2
4. The Dark Knight
5. Pulp Fiction
Which brings us to #6: Schindler’s List. In 1993, Steven Spielberg had one of the greatest years of any director in the history of film. That summer he released one of the greatest summer blockbusters ever in Jurassic Park and that winter he swept the Oscars and turned in probably his best film with the Holocaust drama Schindler’s List.
Some movies get labeled as “Important” without deserving it, but if any film must be seen simply because it IS important, it’s Schindler’s List. To some degree, you have to do Spielberg a disservice and put aside the quality of the film itself, which is impeccable. The subject matter, the Holocaust, is a horror which no imagination can ever equal. That Spielberg manages to capture a fraction of the reality behind it, justifies the film’s place in history. No one is ever in the mood to watch Schindler’s List; you don’t pop it in at the end of a long day. Most people, will only see the film once, and it is a defining enough experience that once is all people need to remember.
Humanity has an almost uncanny ability to forget. Movies exist fundamentally as escapism; as a tool to forget. TS Eliot said that humankind can only bear so much reality, and that’s true. Most of us spend our days in a calculated effort to forget the most important things in our personal and collective history. It is that built-in lethargy that we have to fight, because events like The Holocaust can and will happen again if we allow ourselves to forget what we’re capable of doing to each other. Schindler’s List is probably the greatest tool we have to ensure the transference of cultural memory of The Holocaust from the generations touched by World War II to the present and future. It is heartbreaking, brutal and beautiful. These are the five scenes that have stayed with me.
1. The Girl in the Red Coat
Simply the most effective use of color in any film ever made, and in a film of heartbreaking moments; the one that’s seared into my mind forever.
2. I Could Have Done More
When I make fun of Liam Neeson or rag on him for his career post-Taken, I’m comparing what he IS doing to what he CAN do, which perhaps best captured here.
3. The List is an Absolute Good
Ben Kingsley makes any film in which he partakes better. He has an Oscar for being a leading man, but to me he is the one of the five best supporting actors in the history of cinema.
4. The Balcony Shootings
Ralph Fiennes is as revolting a presence as Schindler is ultimately a redeeming one. The casual evil is the most vile.
5. The End
Spielberg has a problem ending films these days, but he didn’t always. It’s hard to imagine any other ending for this film of black and white fiction than to transfer to full-color reality; the surviving (as of 1993) Schindler Jews.