Oskar Schindler & Steven Spielberg – Using Their Uncommon Gifts
“Watching the film, I understood more clearly how we do have the power to change our own lives, how fate doesn’t deal all of the cards.” – Roger Ebert.
If you have not seen “Schlinder’s List,” one of the best movies ever, I encourage you to see it. It is a story about a German profiteer and his actions and choices during World War II.
After the war, Oskar Schindler was unsuccessful in most of his business ventures. Wikipedia currently notes:
“By the end of the war, Schindler had spent his entire fortune on bribes and black-market purchases of supplies for his workers. Virtually destitute, he moved briefly to Regensburg, Germany and, later, Munich, but did not prosper in postwar Germany. In fact, he was reduced to receiving assistance from Jewish organizations. Eventually, Schindler emigrated to Argentina in 1948, where he went bankrupt. Returning to Germany in 1958, he had a series of unsuccessful business ventures. Schindler settled down in a little apartment at Am Hauptbahnhof Nr. 4 in Frankfurt am Main, West Germany and tried again – with help from a Jewish organization – to establish a cement factory. This, too, went bankrupt in 1961. His business partner cancelled their partnership.”
Below are excerpts from Roger Ebert’s review of “Schindler’s List”:
“Oskar Schindler would have been an easier man to understand if he’d been a conventional hero, fighting for his beliefs. The fact that he was flawed – a drinker, a gambler, a womanizer, driven by greed and a lust for high living-makes his life an enigma. Here is a man who saw his chance at the beginning of World War II, and moved to Nazi-occupied Poland to open a factory and employ Jews at starvation wages . . .
The Holocaust was a vast, evil engine set whirling by racism and madness . . .
Schindler’s genius is in bribing, scheming, conning. He knows nothing about running a factory, and finds Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), a Jewish accountant, to handle that side of things . . .
We also see the Holocaust in a vivid and terrible way. Spielberg gives us a Nazi prison camp commandant named Goeth (Ralph Fiennes), who is a study in the stupidity of evil . . .
(Schindler) bribes, he wheedles, he bluffs, he escapes discovery by the skin of his teeth. In the movie’s most audacious sequence, when a trainload of his employees is mistakenly routed to Auschwitz, he walks into the death camp himself and brazenly talks the authorities out of their victims, snatching them from death and putting them back on the train to his factory.
What is most amazing about this film is how completely Spielberg serves his story. The movie is brilliantly acted, written, directed, and seen. Individual scenes are masterpieces of art direction, cinematography, special effects, crowd control. Yet Spielberg, the stylist whose films have often gloried in shots we are intended to notice and remember, disappears into his work. Neeson, Kingsley, and the other actors are devoid of acting flourishes. There is a single-mindedness to the enterprise that is awesome.
At the end of the film, there is a sequence of overwhelming emotional impact, involving the actual people who were saved by Schindler. We learn that “Schindler’s Jews” and their descendants today number some 6,000, and that the Jewish population of Poland is 4,000. The obvious lesson would seem to be that Schindler did more than a whole nation to spare its Jews. That would be too simple. The film’s message is that one man did something, while in the face of the Holocaust, others were paralyzed. Perhaps it took a Schindler, enigmatic and reckless, without a plan, heedless of risk, a con man, to do what he did. No rational man with a sensible plan would have gotten as far.
The French author Flaubert once wrote that he disliked Uncle Tom’s Cabin because the author was constantly preaching against slavery. ”Does one have to make observations about slavery?” he asked. “Depict it; that’s enough.” And then he added, “An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere.” That would describe Spielberg, the author of this film. He depicts the evil of the Holocaust, and he tells an incredible story of how it was robbed of some of its intended victims. He does so without the tricks of his trade, the directorial and dramatic contrivances that would inspire the usual melodramatic payoffs. Spielberg is not visible in this film. But his restraint and passion are present in every shot.”
~ end of excerpt ~
No one really knows what Schindler’s motives were. However, he was quoted as saying “I knew the people who worked for me . . . When you know people, you have to behave toward them like human beings.”
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Side notes: I don’t understand all the reasons why this blog continues to grow in readers. It’s not more every day or every week, but the moving average continues to stay strong and grow from time to time. Yesterday, the blog received 11,253 visits, the most ever for one day.
With whatever gifts you have
No matter how small
Do whatever good you can
Some artworks primarily make you mindful of the artist
Some artworks primarily make you mindful of the arts of being humane
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