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Schindler's List - Special edition (15)



Review: Jack Foley

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: 'Voices From The List' documentary; The Shoah Foundation Story With Steven Spielberg; Cast and crew; About Oskar Schindler; Regions 2/4.

STEVEN Spielberg really proved himself to be a director of serious worth with Schindler's List, his harrowing Holocaust drama which earned the director seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

The film depicts the true story of flamboyant German entrepreneur, Oskar Schindler (played by Liam Neeson), as he attempted to save Jewish lives from under the noses of his Nazi associates.

For Schindler, the arrival of the Holocaust at first marked an opportunity to get rich, by exploiting the Jews for cheap labour, in his Cracow factory.

But as the horrors of the Nazi's policies become glaringly apparent, his attempts become more desperate to save as many Jews as he can (he rescued 1,100 at great personal cost), providing many families with an unlikely saviour in the midst of one of history's darkest hours.

For many critics, Schindler's List marked the point at which Spielberg moved from blockbuster kind to serious film-maker, with many hailing it as his finest film since Jaws.

Its power is unquestionable. Shot in black-and-white, and featuring some deliberately grainy camerawork, the film takes an honest, unflinching look at the holocaust, and the effect it had on three men.

First and foremost is Neeson's Schindler, a debonair businessman and womaniser, whose faith in his nation is shattered by the evil actions of those around him.

But Spielberg doesn't just focus on Neeson, but rather tells his story from the point of view of Sir Ben Kingsley's Itzhak Stern, an honourable Jew who became Schindler's accountant, and Ralph Fiennes' chilling Commandant Amon Goeth, whose handling of the Jews serves to create one of modern cinema's true monsters.

In doing so, the film mostly manages to avoid becoming too sentimental, with the images and scenes of the holocaust speaking for themselves, without the need for manipulation.

The performances, too, are exceptional, with Neeson delivering a career-best turn as the enigmatic German who, by the end of the film, seems to want to place his nation's guilt upon his own shoulders.

His relationship with Kingsley's meek Stern is wonderfully-realised and poignantly played, providing the film with a strong emotional core, while also providing Kingsley with another notable turn.

But Fiennes is also on outstanding form as the despicable Goeth, who is the embodiment of pure evil, especially when using the Jews as early morning target practice.

Some have criticised Schindler's List for becoming a little too sentimental during its final moments (much like his Saving Private Ryan), but that's being churlish.

This is profoundly moving, effectively shocking and a cinematic tour-de-force. Its special edition DVD release seems especially timely, given the state of the world today, and the fuorore surrounding Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, which has prompted accusations of anti-Semitism.

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