Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018
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Tribeca: 25th Anniversary Of SCHINDLER’S LIST Followed By Cast Panel

Stephanie Archer reports on her time during Tribeca Film Festival 2018, and on her final day, recaps the Tribeca Retrospective Schindler's List.

Tribeca: 25th Anniversary Of SCHINDLER'S LIST Followed By Cast Panel

This was one of the coolest things – a saying I admit I find myself repeating frequently. But this really was! A staple of my evolving love for film, I was about to see Steven Spielberg tonight, along with his outstanding cast, as he revisited the movie that defined his filmmaking career beyond the action. Growing up, Indiana Jones, E.T.,  Jurassic Park and Jaws were staples at various points of my childhood. As I grew and my appreciation for film became deeper, Schindler’s List was one of the first films I set out to see for the education and cinematic achievement – both in film and history.

I arrived at the venue early and was able to position myself within the fan pit with those who were waiting for even just a glimpse of the cast and crew before the show. The kid inside me was bursting at the seams for a small chance to see everyone as they went in. I knew the panel would be clearly seen on stage following the showing of Schindler’s List, but I was drawn into the energy of the crowd waiting patiently. The energy only grew as each member of the panel arrived – with Steven Spielberg’s arrival happening just before the show, giving me just enough time to get inside to catch the start. With a quick glimpse right before the show, I knew this was going to be one special night.

Schindler’s List 25 Years later

Film has always been apart of my life, various family members introducing their favorites, family movie nights and my own interests nurtured. As I got older, I branched out, participating in film history classes during my time in college, symbolism and the art of film becoming more deeply rooted, my interests and exposure expanding further than it ever had. While skimming through my various texts, I stumbled across images from Schindler’s List – a little girl dressed in a red coat, everything else in the image black and white, chaos ensuing all around her. It was a captivating and striking image I could not shake. This was my first introduction to Schindler’s List.

Tribeca Film Festival: 25th Anniversary of SCHINDLER'S LIST followed by Cast Panel

source: Stephen Lovekin/REX/Shutterstock

I was engrossed and horrified as I watched the unbelievable horrors of a war that challenged the existence of humanity. Its visually sticking imagery, its intriguing framing and its care at showcasing a horrific moment in history was done with such precision and boldness. The camera never turns from the violence, understanding that a war of this nature must never be forgotten, and to turn away would be as though you were turning your back on the victims and on history.

This was a film that would stay with me. To be honest, since discovering the film, I have not watched it again – though have recommended it to many over the years. A filmmaker of my childhood whose films were packed full of action, adventure and danger was suddenly transformed, breaking through new ground and new genres. Watching the film again, I wished I had done it sooner. There was so much that I had missed originally. There is so much depth within Schindler’s List that multiple viewings would be necessary to catch them all. I am sure there are still elements I may have missed.

The first thing I noticed watching Schindler’s List again was the subtle humor that was laced throughout the film. I would by no means label it a comedy or negate the subject matter of the film, but there was a new appreciation for the careful moments that audiences were given to break from the horror. Subtle facial expressions and one-liners were enough to break the tension within the theater and give audiences a reprieve. So engrossed in the violence and the increasing savagery on screen, it is easy to overlook.

Speaking of savagery, another element I noticed during my viewing was the the insinuated violence. I had always remembered Schindler’s List as graphic historical horror, yet watching this film again I realized that was not always the case. The subtleties and imagery chosen allowed your mind to fill in the violence. While you do see the bodies dug up to be incinerated, the slow conveyor belt carrying them to the flames, you do not see the mass murder. Boxes and baskets of shoes, piles of suit cases, teeth and shelves of menorahs are used to represent the masses. The symbolism of many allows the audience to fill in what they know and create the horror further in their own minds.

Rewatching Schindler’s List was something I should have done a long time ago. There was so much more to see, learn and appreciate the second time around. If you have not had the chance to see Schindler’s List, you should. If you have, I highly recommend giving it another look. There is so much within this film you might have missed.

The Panel: Steven Spielberg, Liam Neeson, Sir Ben Kingsley, Embeth Davidtz and Caroline Goodall

The energy in the Beacon Theater was incredible, everyone itching to hear the entrances of the panel announced. What had been a childhood dream of mine was coming true. I, like many around me, was about to see Steven Spielberg for the first time.

Tribeca Film Festival: 25th Anniversary of SCHINDLER'S LIST followed by Cast Panel

source: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

As each member of the panel was announced, the applause of the crowd only grew louder. Embeth Davidtz, Caroline Goodall, Sir Ben Kingsley, Liam Neeson and Steven Spielberg, who had watched the film with the audience, each made their entrance, taking their seats for the night’s panel. Moderated by New York Times critic Janet Maslin, questions were answered by each of the cast members, recollections and stories of making the film and its application to today all being answered. Having just seen the film for the first time since its European premiere, Spielberg was asked for his reaction by Maslin, responding “I watched the film and I was just… proud. I’m very, very proud.”

He soon dove into memories of filming, recalling one particular scene at the end of the film when cast members and Schindler’s List survivors were placing stones on the gravestone of Schindler. He recalled the look on Schindler’s wife’s face “the long, lingering look Emily Schindler gives to the grave – she had never been to the grave – really hit me for the first time.”

The tone became more solemn as the attention was turned to Neeson who recalled a moment during filming that would take place just outside of Aushwitz. One day during filming, producer Branko Lustig put his arm around the actor, Neeson recalling “He pointed over to the huts at Aushwitz and he said ‘You see that hut? I was in that hut?'”. Pausing for only a moment, Neeson continued, driving the feeling he had into the audience, his eyes staring off for a moment as it seemed to replay right in front of him. “It hit me, big f-kin’ time. Big time. I kept screwing up the lines”. The anti-Semitism in Poland at the time was also recalled: Swastikas painted on walls, threatening noose motions for members who admitted to being Jewish and memories of individuals addressing Ralph Fiennes in his S.S. Uniform, wishing the S.S. were still there to “protect us”.

Spielberg also recalled the difficulty in filming Schindler’s List, not just because of the subject matter and location but because he was also filming Jurassic Park at the same time. He recalled filming in Poland and having to fly back to the states/communicate via Satellite to approve T-Rex shots. The film had taken him a decade to agree to make and when he finally decided to do it, his need to film in Poland during the winter overlapped with Jurassic Park. Spielberg recalled the emotional strain stating “It built a tremendous amount of anger and resentment that I had to do this, that I actually had to go from what you experience to dinosaurs chasing jeeps.” While truthful in his answers, Spielberg continued, “I was grateful late in June, though. But until then, it was a burden. This was all I cared about.”

There were fond memories recalled as well, Ben Kingsley calling back to the bond he had sealed with Neeson over shots of “good-luck” vodka. Ralph Fiennes and Steve Zaillian, who sadly were not present, were remembered and spoke fondly of throughout the evening, drawing thunderous applause from the audience each time their names were mentioned. Davidtz laughingly recalled Fiennes being “the wild child of the bunch”.  When asked about the difficulty emotionally of filming and maintaining his sanity, Spielberg fondly recalled his weekly calls with Robin Williams. “He would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand up on the phone. I would laugh hysterically because I had to release so much. But the way Robin was on the telephone, he would always hang up on you on the loudest, best laugh you’d give him.”

What a Night!

This was one incredible evening. While many times solemn with the real life tragedy it surrounds, it was such an experience to revisit such a culturally and historically important film, as well as see Spielberg and his amazing cast 25 years later. To hear each share their memories of the film was a treasure and an opportunity I feel so privileged to have experienced.

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Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.

Stephanie Archer is 31 year old film fanatic living in Norwalk, CT, USA.

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