In 1993, Steven Spielberg had one of the greatest years of any director in the history of film. That summer he released one of the greatest summer blockbusters ever in Jurassic Park and that winter he swept the Oscars and turned in probably his best film with the Holocaust drama Schindler’s List.
Some movies get labeled as “Important” without deserving it, but if any film must be seen simply because it IS important, it’s Schindler’s List. To some degree, you have to do Spielberg a disservice and put aside the quality of the film itself, which is impeccable. The subject matter, the Holocaust, is a horror which no imagination can ever equal. That Spielberg manages to capture a fraction of the reality behind it, justifies the film’s place in history. No one is ever in the mood to watch Schindler’s List; you don’t pop it in at the end of a long day. Most people, will only see the film once, and it is a defining enough experience that once is all people need to remember.
Humanity has an almost uncanny ability to forget. Movies exist fundamentally as escapism; as a tool to forget. TS Eliot said that humankind can only bear so much reality, and that’s true. Most of us spend our days in a calculated effort to forget the most important things in our personal and collective history. It is that built-in lethargy that we have to fight, because events like The Holocaust can and will happen again if we allow ourselves to forget what we’re capable of doing to each other. Schindler’s List is probably the greatest tool we have to ensure the transference of cultural memory of The Holocaust from the generations touched by World War II to the present and future. It is heartbreaking, brutal and beautiful. You could pick 20 scenes, but even more than some of the more iconic ones is “The Girl in Red”. Simply the most effective use of color in any film ever made, and in a film of heartbreaking moments; the one that’s seared into my mind forever.