Wednesday 9 March 2011

Schindler's List

Last night, we watched the film Schindlers List. It's a film which stays with you for days afterwards; sensitively done, but sparing none of the horrors of the Holocaust.

The first time we saw it was many years ago on the big screen. After some discussion, we decided to take my two younger boys, then aged 12 and 15. This was something we felt they should know about, and if they watched it with us, we could all talk about it afterwards.

I'll never forget the evening. The four of us left the cinema in total, stunned silence - what was there to say? - and began the drive home. On our way, we came across a man in an advanced stage of inebriation, crawling along in the gutter. We stopped the car, picked him up, and returned him to his (exasperated) wife). That broke the spell, and got us all talking. And talking.

I'll never forget that car journey, or that man, and all because of an extraordinary evening. The Holocaust is something which never seems to lose its power to shock and horrify, does it? Every single time. We are given frequent reminders in films and documentaries, and I think this is a good thing. It poses the obvious question: how could this possibly have happened, adn so recently? And the not so obvious: would I have been capable of anything like that? Is there something in all of us - perhaps only a tiny seed - that, under certain conditions, is capable of unimagineable cruelty?


  1. I can't watch anything like that I just land up crying too much. I wrote an article about the first world war which was published. When I was doing my research the horrors which I read about and saw in photos were awful. You would have thought the world would have ceased all wars by now, but we still haven't learnt from our past. Man is such a cruel creature.

  2. A movie of sheer brilliance. That single splash of colour - the child's red coat - was th emost effective use of colour imagery I've seen.

    As to the questions the movie asked, during the 90's TRC white South Africans brought up under the apartheid era (like me) found themselves asking excruciatingly painful questions along the same lines, but from the other side of the fence.

    If you've seen The Reader with Kate Winslet, that's a more powerful movie, made more difficult for the viewer because the protagonist (Hannah) is not only a perpetrator of evil, but a victim too. So that adds a complexity Schindler's List didn't have, in that in S/List the line between the Holocaust perpetrators (Nazis) and victims (6 million Jews & 7 million intellectuals, gypsy, homosexuals etc) was clearly defined.
    Judy (South Africa)

  3. Thanks for those comments. Judy - I have seen (and read) The Reader, and you make a very good point. Much less black and white than Schindler, and very powerful.

  4. Powerful film, Frances, and how kind of you to show such humanity to that man.

    Judy has just reminded me I never saw The Reader - must remedy that!

  5. Yes do, Rosemary. A great film and a wonderful performance by Kate Winslet.

    As for the man, he really was in the gutter. We couldn't leave him there, could we? And he was far too drunk to pose any kind of threat (though I can't say he was particularly gateful for the ride!).

  6. I have trying to find the courage to watch Schindler's List for years and I think I'm close now. My sixteen year old is highly sensitive and I question whether she should see it too. She is deeply affected by harrowing films, but is keen to discover whether she can cope with this one.

  7. Hi, Joanna. I know what you mean, but I think part of the point of the film is that we should find it harrowing. If you watch it together with your daughter, you may both be glad that you did.

  8. Dear Frances, thank you for your kind comment on my blog, much appreciated, and I will enjoy and savour every minute I am there.
    Just to say how considered your actions were with your children, I wish I could have been that good with my child about the holocaust!
    When I was maybe 11 we had we were shown a film about the holocaust at school, to me it felt like it came out of the blue, I do not remember any lead up to it as in this is what you can expect to see! I felt like the bottom had dropped oout of my world that day, it had never ever accured to me that people could even think up doing anything like that to anything let alone other people, old people, children, mums and dads, I remember being taken home early, I had reoccuring lucid nightmares for years after.
    Schindlers list was the first film I let myself see about the holocaust after that, and then it was quite a few years after the film came out, as I felt I should face it again from a different angle, and maybe I would feel more able to deal with it, I did, I watched it on my own in case I went to peices, as I was ashamed of my inability to control my emotions to anything connected to those dreadful deads.
    I really did feel ashamed for humanity. It obviously was a little gitls emotions, that I could not shake off, finally I met a Rabbi (pretty liberal one) in San Francisco, who spent a few days talking with me, and finally got it into the perspective of an adult.
    Sorry I went on so much, but it hit a spot, that I have not visited in a while.