Few people have not heard of, or, for that matter, not seen, 1993′s Schindler’s List. It is a critically acclaimed, award-winning (including seven Academy Awards), box office smash that is often mentioned as one of the best films ever made. Directed by the great Steven Spielberg, the movie, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, finally gets the Blu-ray treatment, released in the high definition format last week.
For those few who have not seen it, or need a refresher, Schindler’s List is the tale of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson, Taken, Batman Begins), a German who decides he can profit from World War II by opening a factory and hiring cheap Jewish labor. Aided by collaborator Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley, Hugo), many are saved from the death chambers by the work, even though being a hero is not exactly Oskar’s goal.
Then death intrudes upon Oskar’s world. He sees the massacre of many Jewish citizens, and begins to change his mind about the worth of the people he’s employed. Befriending S.S. officer Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes, Skyfall, Harry Potter), Schindler cajoles and bribes Nazis to keep the Jews in his employment and away from the death camps. He sinks almost his entire fortune into the protection scheme, and does what he can to help, even though, in the end, he doesn’t feel like he’s done enough.
Schindler’s List isn’t exactly a true story, as it is based on an historical novel, rather than non-fiction sources. But it does have real-life people portrayed in it, and, of course, the setting and horrors of the war are very much real. Filmed in an artistic black and white, with a truly moving color ending set in the present day, and a sweeping score by John Williams featuring violist Itzhak Perlman, it’s impossible to watch this movie and not be moved by the tragic events it depicts.
This Blu-ray release looks stunning, probably the best such release for a black and white film to date. The blacks, whites, and grays are layered magnificently, with much depth and detail. The image is incredibly crisp, without any unintentional blurriness or graininess. The most remarkable thing that can be said about this version is there really is absolutely nothing to complain about in the sharp, clear picture at all.
The soundtrack is equally impressive. For the tiniest whisper to the biggest roar, each are masterfully captured, balanced, and given the presentation they deserve. The score is one of the highlights of the film, and is beautifully integrated. The dialogue is perfectly balanced, and there are not hints of cracks and pops, with even the subtle effects coming through as they should.
The sole complaint that can be lobbied against the Schindler’s List 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray is that it lacks new special features. The original three extras from previous releases are present: “Voices from the List,” a 77-minute collection of interviews with Holocaust survivors; a five minute discussion with Spielberg about his founding of the USC Shoah Foundation; and a promo for the educational IWitness online application. But there’s nothing else.
Spielberg has said that he thinks Schindler’s List should stand on its own, and that is the reason for the lack of a behind-the-scenes featurette or other documentary. I’m torn on whether to agree with this or not, as it is a powerful and important picture that should be considered on its own merits, even as some would like to see how the director made it. Unfortunately, that choice has been made for us, so I would not expect a release with anything other than these trio of extras anytime soon.