Testimony: The Legacy of Schindler's List and the Shoah Foundation-20th Anniversary Commemorative Edition by Steven Spielberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
How do you write a review on a documentary of a movie that looked like a documentary? Somehow, I will try.
The first half of the book had me absolutely riveted and engrossed. How Steven Spielberg came to make Schindler's List and how he made the decisions he did. First of all, it was on his mind for years after he read Thomas Keneally's book. How do portray a hero that is not made out of hero material? If you've seen the movie, you know that Oskar Schindler was an opportunist. If you haven't seen the movie, key scenes are described so you are not lost, by any means. They are still powerful.
Oskar Schindler saw an opportunity to become very, very rich. He was a womanizer and man with great social skills. He knew how to work people to fulfill his own needs. Thus, he opened a factory near a concentration camp where a psychopath, Amon Goeth, was commandant. He used Jewish slave labor to become very, very rich.
Yet Schindler had a strong conscience. He treated his workers well. They were better fed and living in better conditions than the regular Jewish prisoners. At least when they were not living in the concentration camp under the commandant. Schindler takes a horseback ride on a beautiful day in Poland where he witnesses a pogrom in Krakow. It is here that the scene of the red coat plays out. This is a pivotal scene for Schindler because he suddenly has the epiphany of the cruelties of the war. He takes more Jewish workers, sets up his own camp and treats them without cruelty, giving them as much food and shelter as he can.
Schindler's List comes into the story when his factory is closed down and he Amon to allow him to keep his workers. Amon allows him to buy workers but he must also prove that the workers are specialized and he can't do without them. This is the list. This is the difference between life and death. 1,100 Jewish people are saved because of this list.
So the book covers how certain actors were cast and why. How Liam Neesom was not well known and Spielberg did not want any well known actors. This was true in every case save Ishtak Stern, his accountant who was Ben Kingsley. It discusses the use of light, the props, the set, the costumes, and the pivotal scenes that you wondered how they were filmed. It was a little exhausting, although not as exhausting as watching the movie. Still, I had weird and somewhat disturbing dreams for two or three nights.
The second half is about the Shoah Foundation which is an important work in progress. The Shoah Foundation preserves the oral history of the people during WWII and now other conflicts where genocide is rampant. Although very important, I didn't find this part of the book as compelling. The movie was incredibly well done and a visceral experience thus I had a lot more invested in understanding. The Shoah Foundation is a huge undertaking and very important but I don't have as much interest in the process.
A great book. I really enjoyed it.