Schindler's List ★★★★★

**Part of the Best Picture Project**

This movie isn't about the Holocaust. It's about the struggle between doing good and evil. It isn't inherent to one's nature. It's merely a matter of whichever you want more, and unfortunately it's usually easier to do something evil. This thematic struggle is played out through a character compare/contrast of Oskar Schindler, a man looking to make a profit off the war, and Amon Goeth, a man looking to simply do his job.

I've tried to see this film from its detractors viewpoint, but it doesn't work. People like Terry Gilliam think this a film about success, but it shows how little attention they have paid to it. When Oskar Schindler is crying about how he could have saved more Jews while they start to soothe his pains, Spielberg does not play this moment as one of triumph. It is, rather, a moment of pain and loss. Schindler could have saved more, and so could the rest of humanity.

Spielberg also isn't afraid of treating everyone in this film equally. Both Jews and German soldiers are flawed characters, mixed with amounts of good and evil. Jews are portrayed as greedy, a few of them even selling out their friends just to survive for themselves. Amon Goeth is just a man doing his job, and even briefly considers being a nicer camp director. The Beard also balances his approach. A scene in which the audience is relieved to find out the showers a group of Jews head into are actually showers is followed by them walking by a group of Jews headed to their deaths. For every life that was saved, several more perished.

Spielberg is often criticized as being too optimistic, but I find this is the result of a pessimistic bias. Yes, Spielberg is without a doubt an optimist, but he never claims the damages in his films don't matter. They still have to face the horrors of yesterday, and will still have to face whatever tomorrow holds, but humanity is still full of good just trying to survive, like a Shabbat candle flickering away in the dark. Yes, Schindler's Jews survived, and that is something worth celebrating. But it won't bring back the 6 million Jews (that the film is ultimately dedicated to) back.

Mary Conti liked this review