To watch "Schindler's List" is both highly inspirational and painful at the same time, and in my case, I have to be in a certain mood to really be able to handle the film. It is, by and large, Steven Spielberg's most demanding film, that dramatically changed how he was perceived by the movie-going public as a director. To celebrate the movie's 20th anniversary, Universal Home Entertainment has now prepared a Blu-Ray version for fans to admire.
As the anti-semitism builds during World War II and the Nazis shepherd Jews from all over Central Europe into crowded ghettos, abusing and killing them at will, Oskar Schindler sees an opportunity emerge. Since the Nazis treat the Jews worse than animals, assigning absolutely no value to these people, Schindler realizes that he could use them as a cheap labor force, set up a company that creates war supplies that feeds the beast, and get rich off it. He schmoozes influential Nazis with girls, champagne and his won charm, and shortly thereafter he has the contracts in place. In Krakow, just outside the ghetto, he opens his enamelware company to create field kitchen supplies, such as plates, pots and pans, powered by the labor force of hundreds of Jews. Since he himself has no experience in running a business, he relies entirely on the stalwart skill of Itzhak Stern to run day to day operations.
But as the war progresses and Hitler puts into effect the Final Solution, Schindler witnesses how Nazi murder innocent Jews by the thousands as they clear the Krakow Ghetto and transfer them to concentration camps. Confronted with the inhumane treatment of the Jews - people he got to know well enough - Schindler is disgusted and horrified over the effects the war has. With no labor force left in Krakow, he decides to transfer his own efforts as well, and if he can't save the Jews, at least he can make life in the concentration camps a little more tolerable for them, he hopes.
He opens a munitions factory close to PlaszÃ³w concentration camp, befriends Amon GÃ¶th, the sadistic commandant of the camp, and begins funneling Jews into his factory, where they are safe from general abuse. What's more, is that he decides to hinder the war effort as best as he could. While posing as a munitions factory, not a single working bullet ever left his factory premises. Instead he sent out defective ammunition or bought it form competitors to sell through to the Nazis, thus reducing the actual amount of munitions manufactured.
But he is operating on borrowed time, and when the order comes to close smaller concentration camps across the country and ship the Jews to Dachau and Auschwitz for extermination, Schindler becomes desperate. With the help of Itzhak Stern he compiles a list of inmates from PlaszÃ³w and buys them back from the commandant, using the wealth he had accumulated in the previous years. As time runs out, they assemble list after list, helping to shepherd more and more Jews into his factory, to safety, before they are transported off to their certain death. But not even Schindler's monies are unlimited. Eventually he runs out of money to buy any more lives, just as the war comes to an end and Germany surrenders. In the end, he has become the man who single-handedly saved the lives of 1200 Jews with his actions.
"Schindler's List" is heart-wrenching to watch. The moments of aggravated violence, the sadism on display by the German forces, the violations against the Jewish people, the suffering and pain, it all floods from the screen as the movie progresses. but, of course, it is also a story of heroism, a story that shows that even in the most desperate and dark of times there can be light. Oskar Schindler may have been only one man against the whole of the Third Reich, but to those 1200 Jews, he was the difference between life and death, and to the rest of the world who beheld his attempt in later years, he was a man of incredible fortitude and a true hero.
Universal Home Entertainment is presenting "Schindler's List" in a magnificent 1080p high definition transfer on this release. Shot in black and white almost entirely, the film conjures up the haunting images of the past with frightening accuracy. It makes the movie such an emotional experience that truly brings viewers to the breaking point. Gloriously represented in high definition here, with incredible detail, the transfer is a beauty to behold and free of any defects, blemishes or shortcomings.
The audio track on the release is equally impressive, offering up a DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio presentation that is active and balanced. Making good use of the surround channels - especially during the crowd scenes, such as the clearing of the Krakow Ghetto - the track is dynamic and has a good frequency response throughout. John William's evocatively melancholic score is also present in all of its glory, reproducing even the most subtle hints and instrumental textures with ease.
This 20th Anniversary Limited Edition also contains the DVD Version of the film, spread over two discs. While the release contains the feature-length documentary "Voices from the List," it is sadly presented only on the DVD version in standard resolution. The Blu-Ray Disc itself is devoid of any extras - most likely due to the considerable running length of the film itself.
"Schindler's List" is a film that belongs into everyone's collection. It is a brutal reminder of the horrors of war, how it brings out the worst in man, while also reminding us that it is possible to make a difference.