Stanley Kubrick once said
“The essence of dramatic form is to let an idea come over people without it being plainly stated. When you say something directly, it’s simply not as potent as it is when you allow people to discover it for themselves.”
The saddest moment in Schindler’s List (for me) is when people are being herded onto a train and told to leave their luggage -It’ll be sent on later. Then we see the luggage in a big heap being rifled-through/ burnt. That scene had me in tears -or as good as.
So is this the mark of a masterpiece? Something that can make a grown man cry? Onions do that to me all the time, but I still don’t stop chopping them to pieces and nobody thinks any less of me for doing so.
For me, Schindler’s List is like Barney.
Barney “owns” nice. Barney IS nice and everything about Barney is NICE. He tells us this all the time (so I hear). He has stolen old tunes, replaced them with his own copyrighted lyrics that repeatedly reinforce how NICE he is, then forces kids to repeat them over & over in a Hare Krishna like mantra.
To dislike Barney now is to be the opposite of “nice”. Clearly anyone who did dislike Barney is not only dissing a much-loved kids’ icon, he/she would just not be a nice person.
Kids have been brainwashed. They grow up being “nice” not because they learnt it naturally from the environment around them, but because Barney (and his ilk) have told them so. They repeated the mantra and grew up in a world where everybody knows “nice” is good. There was never a question about it. Why bother even questioning it? It’s not a learnt experience, formed as a natural process of growing up -it’s a given- and I would argue, a less-reinforced notion because of it.
…Now buy the lunchbox.
Schindler’s List and most other Holocaust tales are similarly above reproach. To criticise this movie is almost akin to denying the Holocaust itself. But to me, it’s too easy to pile up the atrocities one after another and force viewers to sit through it for fear of being branded “a bad person”. Who would want to sit through that? Why does this make it a good film?
Ok, I agree it’s important to have visual proof/ records of events and for them to be portrayed on film, but we get it already. Nazis are bad. Do we really have to laud over everything that tells us this again and again?
Schindler’s List just shows us “Evil” at its peak and kind of screams “now children, this is bad”.
We all already knew this was bad didn’t we? I certainly did. Why do we need to be hit over the head with it?
How things got to that level is faaar more interesting/ important to know. How did schoolteachers and shoe makers and bakers and mechanics and doctors and dentists come to be the kind of people who would carry out such actions?
Want a really fine “nazi” film that doesn’t hit us over the head with atrocities, but gives us some insight into how “normal” human beings overlooked such things and actually supported the nazi regime through inaction or ‘small’ actions that could be brushed aside by their perpetrators under the guise of “protecting their community/family” ? You should watch 2000’s Divided We Fall, a small low-budget film that isn’t preachy or difficult to watch, but is a much better film -more interesting, more insightful, more entertaining (if that’s not a naughty word in this context) and more human. It doesn’t feature concentration camps, but we already know they’re bad places to be.
Schindler’s List has no such insight. To me, Schindler’s List, along with The Passion of The Christ, the beginning of Saving Private Ryan and probably others I can’t think of right now is a kind of self-flagellation that helps nobody. It solves nothing and (if its purpose is to help stamp it out in future) is self-defeating in many ways. It appeals to much the same “passion for violence” that it claims to abhor. It feeds that blood-lust and I believe titillates the very senses in the very people who might be half-inclined to sign-up for such actions in the right/wrong circumstances.
In other words, it’s porn for the self-righteous.
Let me tell you now -I don’t like that. I don’t like it in “reality” and I don’t need it re-enacted for me to know I don’t like it in non-reality either.
Does this make me a bad person?
As Kubrick said (and I extrapolate), Art -the best Art- should provide the viewer/ reader/ participator with a kind of springboard from which certain notions or ideas or actions or frames of mind naturally grow. It should tell the viewer as little about how or what to think as possible, not spoonfeed them through manipulative music or dramatic close-ups or through the over-use of other tricks of cinema designed to convey emotion or certain viewpoints.
Schindler’s List does do this. Most Spielberg films do this and it is forgiveable in an action romp such as an Indiana Jones movie, but a story such as Schindler’s List I believe deserves more -or perhaps less… remove the theatrics, add some depth, don’t over-egg where it isn’t required. Less is more.
Barney also does this. He bypasses the brain synapses of fragile little minds and implants a single nugget of “niceness” and franchise sales. I believe that is not nice.