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The true story of Austrian industrialist Oskar Schindler, who harbored Polish Jews during WWII by using them as workers in his factory. Schindler saved 1,100 Jews from certain death.
For more about Schindler's List and the Schindler's List Blu-ray release, see Schindler's List Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on February 15, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Steven Zaillian
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Embeth Davidtz, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagall
» See full cast & crew
Schindler's List Blu-ray Review
"Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire..."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, February 15, 2013
Only a select few filmmakers can say they've made an important film. Not a great film, or a critically acclaimed film, or an award-winning film, or even a meaningful film. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of talented directors who share such claims to fame. But an important film? Those are in a category all their own, and it's a very, very small category. Schindler's List is one such rarity, and its importance to cinema, history and an entire people can not and should not be understated.
Much has been made of Spielberg's resistance to issuing documentaries or featurettes detailing the production of Schindler's List. Some feel the movie would be better for it, others simply relish special features, still others believe the Blu-ray edition of the film is a lesser release because it doesn't include any new supplemental content. I can't deny I felt the slight sting of disappointment myself. But I soon realized Spielberg understands how easily the mechanics and minutia of a production can distract and in fact distance the viewer from the experience. And if any film -- any important film -- is an emotionally consuming experience that should be free of distraction, it's Schindler's List. Ben Kingsley's quiet despair as horrors unspeakable unfold before him. The clearing of the Ghetto. The young boy hiding beneath a pit toilet in an outhouse. The gas chambers. Ralph Fiennes' sudden outburst and violent beating of a Jewish woman. The little girl in the red coat. The real Plaszow survivors gathering in the present to place stones atop Schindler's grave. And, yes, Liam Neeson's breakdown, a scene some have criticized as overly melodramatic but most consider a heartwrenching moment of overwhelming grief, realization and regret. In all, there are too many affecting scenes to list.
Rather than attempt to convey the raw narrative and emotional power of Schindler's List, though -- much less the impact of its performances, the immeasurable value of its historical accuracy and authenticity, the technical mastery of Spielberg's craft, the haunting beauty of Janusz Kaminski's cinematography, the longing of John Williams' score, or the stunning achievement of the end result -- I'm going to take my cue from Spielberg and simply allow one of the finest films of our lifetime to speak for itself and, more crucially, to allow those whom Schindler saved to have the final word on the man and his legacy. The following is a letter written in 1945 by Oscar Schindler's former workers, signed by Isaak Stern, former employee Pal. Office in Krakow, Dr. Hilfstein, Chaim Salpeter, Former President of the Zionist Executive in Krakow for Galicia and Silesia:
There were huge difficulties connected with the implementation of Director Schindler's business, and he took great pains to introduce this plan. The fact that he attained permission to create a camp, in which not only women and men, but also families could stay together, is unique within the territory of the Reich. Special mention must be given to the fact that our resettlement to Bruennlitz was carried out by way of a list of names, put together in Krakow and approved by the Central Administration of all concentration camps in Oranienburg (a unique case). After the men had been interned in Gross-Rosen concentration camp for no more than a couple of days and the women for 3 weeks in Auschwitz concentration camp, we may claim with assertiveness that with our arrival in Bruennlitz we owe our lives solely to the efforts of Director Schindler and his humane treatment of his workers. Director Schindler took care of the improvement of our living standards by providing us with extra food and clothing. No money was spared and his one and only goal was the humanistic ideal of saving our lives from inevitable death.
It is only thanks to the ceaseless efforts and interventions of Director Schindler with the authorities in question, that we stayed in Bruennlitz, in spite of the existing danger, as, with the approaching frontline we would all have been moved away by the leaders of the camp, which would have meant our ultimate end. This we declare today, on this day of the declaration of the end of the war, as we await our official liberation and the opportunity to return to our destroyed families and homes. Here we are, a gathering of 1100 people, 800 men and 300 women.
All Jewish workers, that were inmates in the Gross-Rosen and Auschwitz concentration camps respectively declare wholeheartedly their gratitude towards Director Schindler, and we herewith state that it is exclusively due to his efforts, that we were permitted to witness this moment, the end of the war.
Concerning Director Schindler's treatment of the Jews, one event that took place during our internment in Bruennlitz in January of this year which deserves special mention was coincidentally a transport of Jewish inmates, that had been evacuated from the Auschwitz concentration camp, Goleschow outpost, and ended up near us. This transport consisted exclusively of more than 100 sick people from a hospital which had been cleared during the liquidation of the camp. These people reached us frozen and almost unable to carry on living after having wandered for weeks. No other camp was willing to accept this transport and it was Director Schindler alone who personally took care of these people, while giving them shelter on his factory premises; even though there was not the slightest chance of them ever being employed. He gave considerable sums out of his own private funds, to enable their recovery as quick as possible. He organized medical aid and established a special hospital room for those people who were bedridden. It was only because of his personal care that it was possible to save 80 of these people from their inevitable death and to restore them to life.
We sincerely plead with you to help Director Schindler in any way possible, and especially to enable him to establish a new life, because of all he did for us both in Krakow and in Bruennlitz he sacrificed his entire fortune.
Bruennlitz, May 8, 1945.
Schindler's List Blu-ray, Video Quality
Universal has spared little expense in bringing Schindler's List to Blu-ray. Not only did director Steven Spielberg personally supervise an extensive restoration from the original 35mm film negative, those responsible for the restoration have treated the elements, Janusz Kaminski's black and white photography, and the resulting 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer with the utmost care and respect. Grain is intact and filmic in nature, and any noise reduction has been employed judiciously and without incident. Definition is clean and crisp as well, fine textures are often wonderfully realized and refined, closeups are worthy of celebration, delineation is excellent and there are virtually zero anomalies to report. Significant macroblocking and banding are nowhere to be found. Aliasing and shimmering are not a factor. Crush doesn't take a toll and contrast is dialed in beautifully. White levels are striking, midrange grays are lovely and unburdened, and black levels are rich and satisfying. Softness is present, albeit only as it graces Kaminski's photography. Inherent shortcomings and grain structure inconsistencies occasionally appear (primarily when color has been added into a shot), but again, each instance traces back to the original film negative and appeared in the 1993 theatrical presentation. And the slightest hint of ringing can be spotted from time to time, although it's hardly a prevailing issue or major distraction. It certainly isn't bothersome enough to warrant a reduction in score.
Schindler's List couldn't possibly look much better than it does here -- much being a bit of a key word -- at least not in a day and age before 4K and beyond has become standard in every household. Spielberg and Universal have fashioned a near-perfect, arguably definitive presentation of the film, and Blu-ray owners are the beneficiaries.
Schindler's List Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Spielberg also supervised the restoration of the film's audio elements, and Universal's subsequent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is that much better for it. From the hushed whispers of hiding prisoners to the vicious realities of the Nazi war machine, Schindler's List sounds every bit as good -- or rather chilling, heartbreaking and emotionally charged -- as it should. Dialogue is clear, intelligible and both perfectly grounded and perfectly prioritized in the mix. LFE output is as merciless as it is restrained, granting power and ferocity as required and steadiness and nuance as needed. Rear speaker activity is exceptional too, with subtle ambient and acoustic properties, convincing directional effects, smooth pans and a fully immersive and wholly engaging soundfield. The marriage of visual and aural mastery is magnificent, even when depicting horrifying events some would rather leave to the imagination. All told, Schindler's List boasts a top tier catalog AV presentation that allows the film to accomplish everything Spielberg intended without anything that might yank the audience out of the experience.
Schindler's List Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Although it's in keeping with Spielberg's less is more approach to Schindler's List special features, it's still a bit strange that the film's only three extras are relegated to Disc Three in the set, a standard DVD that houses Part 2 of the DVD version of the film. There are no new documentaries, interviews or retrospectives (a shame but by no means a deal breaker), and of course all of the supplemental content is presented in standard definition.
Schindler's List Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Schindler's List is a film that in many ways defies analysis. The experience is as moving and transformational as the movie itself is masterfully constructed and intimately made. Its story, performances, cinematography and unflinching portrayal of the horrors of the Holocaust so demand personal investment that it transcends entertainment or drama and becomes something else entirely. Universal has responded in kind, delivering a Blu-ray release befitting a film of its caliber and legacy. With a magnificent restoration supervised by Spielberg himself and a top tier AV presentation, Schindler's List is a must-own release that belongs on every cinephile's shelves.
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