I first viewed this film alone in a matinee in a downtown movie theater that has since closed. I was expecting sad, but I was not prepared for crying the entire time. When I emerged into the daylight and bumped into some friends, they asked me why my eyes were so red. It turned out that the same day as I saw Schindler’s List was the day they found Kurt Cobain‘s body above his garage. They are connected in my memory in one collective sadness. It is amazing to think that it all happened almost twenty years ago. I watch Schindler’s List from time to time and I drive by the Kurt’s old house on the way to/from my house and see the tour buses and the candles burning on the bench in his park. I feel that same sadness as if no time has passed. That is my personal mark of a good film: having the power to evoke the same emotions after years of repeated viewings. Very few films have that ability.
Schindler’s List is a 1993 American epic drama film directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg and scripted by Steven Zaillian. It is based on the novel Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally, an Australian novelist. The film tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. It stars Liam Neeson as Schindler, Ralph Fiennes as Schutzstaffel (SS)-officer Amon Göth, and Ben Kingsley as Schindler’s Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern. John Williams composed the score.
Ideas for a film about the Schindlerjuden were proposed as early as 1963. Poldek Pfefferberg, one of the Schindlerjuden, made it his life’s mission to tell the story of Schindler. When executive Sid Sheinberg sent a review of Schindler’s Ark to Spielberg, the director was fascinated by the book. He eventually expressed enough interest for Universal Pictures to buy the rights to the novel. However, he was unsure about his own maturity about making a film about the Holocaust. Spielberg tried to pass on the projects to several other directors before finally deciding to direct the film himself after hearing of the various Holocaust denials.
Filming took place in Poland over the course of 72 days, in Kraków. Spielberg shot the film like a documentary, and decided not to use storyboards while shooting Schindler’s List. Cinematographer Janusz Kamiński wanted to give a timeless sense to the film. Production designer Allan Starski made the sets darker or lighter than the people in the scenes, so they would not blend. The costumes had to be distinguished from skin tones or colors being used for the sets. In composing the score to Schindler’s List, Williams hired violinist Itzhak Perlman to perform the film’s main theme.
Schindler’s List premiered on November 30, 1993 in Washington, D.C. and it was released on December 15, 1993 in the United States. Regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, it was a box office success and recipient of seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Score, as well as numerous other awards (seven BAFTAs, three Golden Globes). In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked the film 8th on its list of the 100 best American films of all time (up one position from its 9th place listing on the 1998 list).