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Steven Spielberg has to be considered one of the greatest filmmakers of the last decade. The sheer diversity of movies that he has directed is second to none, and a perfect example of this is the year 1993 which saw him at the helm for Jurassic Park and was then closely followed up by Schindler’s List. The latter of these focused on the Holocaust, and currently holds the title of most expensive black and white film ever made. The film was obviously very close to his heart, but the risk proved to be worth it as the movie went on to make over ten times its budget and also won seven Academy Awards in the process.

Schindler's List
Schindler’s List follows the life story of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) during the 2nd World War. As is common knowledge, the Germans had no wish to allow Jews to play a part in society during this period, and the majority were lined up for death in concentration camps. Schindler was a Czech-born businessman who ran a weapon making factory that supplied the Germans with all the equipment they needed for the war. Intent on making a quick buck, Schindler employed Jewish workers on low wages and hoped that the war would last long enough to ensure that he made enough money. The atrocities taking place within the concentrations camps soon came to the fore and Schindler found that he couldn’t ignore the mass slaughter taking place, and so set about trying to help the Jewish people. His actions were obviously not well thought of at the time and he soon finds that his money has disappeared and he is on the run. Schindler was responsible for saving the lives of a thousand Jewish people, and Schindler’s List is an accurate portrayal of his bravery.

My apologies upfront with this review, I found it extremely hard to put into words the impact of this movie, and also there’s not much more to say about Schindler’s List that hasn’t been said a thousand times before. Like the recent Passion of Christ movie, Schindler’s List is an epic which you should really feel guilty for saying you enjoyed. Spielberg has created a vivid and deeply emotional interpretation of the Holocaust that should keep you enthralled, but will no doubt also leave you feeling drained by the end. Probably the easiest way to describe this movie is simply as somber. I first saw this movie during its original theatrical release in 1993, and this DVD viewing is the first time since that I have had the opportunity to re-evaluate it. Some people will be put off by the nature of this movie, and to some extent I understand their apprehension. The world these days is depressing enough without having to dwell on the past, but even so I implore anyone who has a love for movies to give this at least one viewing.

Schindler's List
One of the main reasons why this movie is so powerful is largely down to the lead actors. Both Fiennes and Neeson are superb in the roles and thoroughly deserve their Oscar nominations. The chemistry between both actors is clearly evident for all to see. Spielberg has also excelled himself with this movie, and having made it shortly after Jurassic Park, he has shown that he really is a director who isn’t confined to one genre. Chances are that if you are reading this review, you either know about the movie and are wondering what the DVD is like, or you have never seen it and are unsure whether or not to take the risk. Schindler’s List is one of the most gripping and disturbing movies that you are ever likely to come across. Whether this is enough to make you purchase the disc is entirely down to the individual, but there is no denying that Spielberg has created a movie which will live in the mind for many years to come. Ten years on and Schindler’s List is just as controversial now as when it was first released; now that’s a sign of a truly absorbing movie.

Shot mainly in black and white, Universal have produced a more than respectable transfer for this movie. I don’t know much about the effort that went into producing this transfer, but from the evidence it was time well spent! Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the most striking aspect of this transfer is the high level of detail and clarity. Given the nature of the movie, Universal could have been forgiven if detail levels were not up to their usual standard. Essentially this movie is about the storytelling and not the colourful background, however it is nice to have scenes looking as good as they can be.

There were no obvious signs of print damage, but grain was evident throughout. One of my pet hates has to be overwhelming amounts of grain, but thankfully the levels here are reasonable and actually compliment the type of movie Spielberg was trying to create. Blacks were spot on and contrast levels were also impressive. Edge enhancements were noticeable during certain scenes but not too distracting, while compression artifacts kept a low profile (more about this later!). In other words, Universal have once again delivered the goods!

Universal have supplied us with two soundtracks for this release. Both are English tracks (Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1), but slightly worrying is the fact that once again we seem to be missing foreign soundtracks.  This has become a regular occurrence with region two titles recently, and while personally it doesn’t affect me, I’m sure our foreign readers won’t appreciate the move. The region one disc featured both a French and Spanish track, but both seem to have been omitted here. This would have been a welcome move if it meant that the movie fitted onto one disc, but as we get the same number of discs as the region one title, I find their omission to be quite disappointing.

Schindler's List
Anyway, that’s enough of my ranting, the DTS track included with this release does everything expected of it, but doesn’t overwhelm. Anyone who has seen the movie shouldn’t be surprised by this statement, as Spielberg has created a film which requires a subtle approach. Therefore there are very few pulsating moments, but that’s not to say that the soundtrack is substandard. The rears are used sparingly throughout, but when they do come into play they really do add to the atmosphere. Dialogue levels are as expected from a high profile release, voices are heard throughout and don’t seem to get muffled during the noisier scenes. The Dolby Digital track is pretty much the same as the DTS track. It may slightly lack definition, but otherwise there is very little to choose between the two.

Without a doubt the best extra on this disc is the first one that you come across, it is called Voices From the List and runs for over an hour. This documentary starts off with a minute long introduction from Steven Spielberg, who talks about his reasons for making the film, and also mentions that this documentary is a lot more powerful than any film that could be made. The documentary then moves onto a few accounts of Oskar Schindler; we get to hear about what he was like as a person and at the same time various images of him are displayed. It’s fair to say that not everyone will enjoy this extra, but there is no denying that it is extremely emotional. Each person who talks has a riveting, but deeply sad story to tell. All in all, this is one of the most touching extras you are likely to ever see, and it really hits home how many people were affected by the holocaust.

The Shoah Foundation Story With Steven Spielberg - This featurette starts off with some graphic and very disturbing footage of recent atrocities from across the world. Morgan Freeman is the narrator for this featurette and there is also some footage from an interview with Steven Spielberg, who talks about how the Shoah Foundation came about. This featurette is an in-depth look (11 minutes long) at what the foundation does and what differences it can make to people’s lives. The next extra is a Cast and Filmmakers, but this is a lot more thorough than your average one. There are fourteen choices and each person has a thorough rundown of their history. The final extra is a text based historical account called About Oskar Schindler. This extra features around nine pages of information about Mr Schindler. If you ever wanted to find information about the character then this is probably a good starting point.

Both the featurette and documentary are accompanied by English subtitles.

Schindler's List
Fans have been awaiting the release of Schindler’s List on DVD since the advent of our favourite format, but has the wait been worth it? Well, from the point of view of the movie, I don’t think it needs much endorsing as Spielberg has created a film which has stood the test of time, and is still considered one of the most realistic accounts of the Holocaust ever committed to film. The transfer and soundtracks are both first class, but I can’t help feeling slightly disappointed by the quality of the extras. It’s fair to say that the documentary included is comprehensive but surely there must be more material available than just this? If you were hoping for the ultimate release of Schindler’s List then you may be slightly frustrated with this DVD, but then again I cannot see another edition being released in the foreseeable future. If you like the film then I would recommend this disc, however if you are looking for an impulse buy and like scouring through extras, you might want to look at a more extra-packed title.