Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Dear Jodie - Schindler's List

Father Francis Gabryl
Dear Jodie,

Schindler's List was a difficult movie for me to watch which is why last night was the first time I'd seen it in twenty-one years.  As bad as things looked on film, they were logarithmically worse in real life.

I obviously don't know that first hand, but . . . well, let's say that I began my education on the Holocaust with a substitute teacher in Junior High School back in 1970.  She had escaped from Auschwitz as a young girl along with her brother and told us of her escape. She even showed us the tattoo on her left forearm.

About the atrocities inside the camp, she remained silent, but told us of how she and her brother took refuge in a convent until the nuns could arrange for transportation out of the country and eventually to the U. S. where an aunt and uncle took them in.

An older priest retired from Poland to our parish in 1970. Fr. Francis J. Gabryl (pictured above) had survived both the Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps.  He became a leader in the Dallas Polish-American community until he returned to Poland in 1985.  And, was acquainted with a younger Polish priest named Karol Wojtyla who later became the first Polish Pope, more recently known as Saint John Paul II.

I'll tell you an amusing story about when I went to confession to him one of these days.

I digress!

If someone had told me that the man who directed the Indiana Jones Movies, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and ET would direct a movie like this, I would not have believed it.

But Steven Spielberg showed great depth, and a more-than-amazing ability to get out of the way of the story he wanted to tell, and THAT is the brilliance of his directing in this film.  Never once does he comment on the horrors of the Holocaust.  He shows them and allows them to speak for themselves.

I love (and hate) this story of how profiteer Oskar Schindler (beautifully portrayed by Liam Neeson), a member of the Nazi Party, slowly changes into a man who spends the entire fortune he made to save nearly 1,100 Jews . . .  known after WWII as Schindlerjuden (Schindler Jews).  I love that it happened, but hate that it needed to happen.

To his credit, Spielberg doesn't try to answer the question of the change.  He shows that the change happened, but not the why.  Though the movies shows the line Schindler had to cross in the form of the little girl in the red jacket . . . a red jacket in a black and white movie. You can better answer the why, Jodie, but I see Oskar Schindler as a complex man who, himself, cannot see the change.

In terms of acting I would be remiss if I didn't mention the wonderful performance of Ralph Fiennes as the despicable Commandant Amon Goeth. He played it straight without unnecessary histrionics. He let the actions of the character define the character.  Here, too, Spielberg demonstrates that he profoundly understands the difference between cartoon evil (Raiders of the Lost Ark) and true evil.

I shed tears a number of times during this movie, had to turn my head at others because the many shootings looked all-too-real, and literally spent the last bit of the film weeping.  When Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley in a GREAT performance) presents Schindler with a the letter proclaiming his deeds in saving the lives of so many, and with the gold ring engraved with the Talmudic quotation, "Whoever saves one life save the world entire" I wept!

I also wept at the end as the actors playing the roles of the survivors walk with their real-life counterparts to place stones on the grave of Oskar Schinder, culminating with Liam Neeson placing two roses on the grave.

Oh, Jodie, this movie is a solid 9 out of 10, and one I can't imagine watching again.  Of course, I won't have to.  I'll never forget it!

What did you think?  Please tell me this was not an easy movie to watch!

1 comment:

  1. Wow Rocky, what an awesome review. You are so right about Spielberg. Imagine how making this film must have been for him.


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