Thursday, November 12, 2009

Schindler's List


Good point about the impersonal camera achieving maximum and "horrific effect",very apparent in this film. Note other points underscored below:

  1. Subliminal parallels to other films.

  2. Note spielberg's borrowings from his favorite directors, ie the two David Lean films.

  3. Fiennes as Amon Goeth is a masterful performance of evil with a human face ,His "I pardon you" letting go of the boy and then shooting the boy as he leaves and goes into the prison yard is a macabre scene .The shooting is not openly shown and is shown by suggestion and the reaction in the face "of the passing by Kingsley."

  4. There is a superb cacophony of editing design and photography recalling the film of wartime documentaries all weaving a horrifying tapestry of man's inhumanity and the remnant of humanity in man that always remains and resonates.

  5. Movies watching us. Curious. They embed images in our brain as a secondary projector We are truly early hostages of our future biographies as I decipher the full import of that phrase.

  6. The innocence of "the gaze" is put in a WAY making the American experience of film to be innocent as defined in this passage. After WWII that innocence can no longer be claimed as successive disclosures of our role in the WAR reduced our idyllic scenes to the naked calumny of our revealed acts.

  7. It is the other pornography – the “artistic” pornography of Kapo, of The Night Porter and other retro '70s movies – that has always revolted me. QUOTE

It has been said by some people that Schindler himself is associated with
Spielberg and that this film is his dream project, one which only a director of
his standing would be able to undertake (yet even so he still tried to persuade
Roman Polanski to do it, though he would wait until The Pianist to tackle the
Holocaust). Spielberg dares to have his camera as impersonal towards each
individual atrocity as it would have been to the robotic Nazis committing them,
knowing that this understatement achieves the maximum impact.
It may have
a few Spielberg touches of sentimentality – the colour transformation at the end
to show the real life Schindler Jews is unnecessary and the colour of the flames
and the little girl in the red coat is rather gimmicky – but in general he keeps
such sentiment away.
Here at last Spielberg the filmmaker was
comfortable in an adult world, with all the censorables that had been so lacking
in his more financially lucrative assignments. That he made his massive
hit Jurassic Park in the same year is evident in the fact that certain scenes do
have subliminal parallels (one recalls the young boy escaping the Nazis in the
Plaszow camp, reminiscent in style to the two kids escaping the raptors in
Mind you, Spielberg doesn’t only borrow from himself, but from
his favourite directors. In the very first shot he cuts from the
extinguished candle smoke to that of a train in Krakow station, which pays
homage to two David Lean films (the cut from the matchstick to the sunrise in
Lawrence of Arabia and that from the glass slide to the tram in Doctor
Other shots recall Kubrick, Kurosawa and even Eisenstein.
This is a cinematic royal family of larceny and it works splendidly.

Spielberg has never made a film as complex as Schindler’s before or since, his enthusiasm and commitment to the project also rubbing off on his actors and crew. Liam Neeson can often seem too worthy an actor, but his Oskar Schindler is a masterful performance. There is a wonderfully revealing yet also misleading shot of him peering through his cigarette smoke at a group of Nazis out for a good time, seemingly the unacceptable face of capitalism. It’s Neeson’s greatest performance and Kingsley is equally memorable as the stalwart Stern, the brains behind the enterprise, who allows Schindler to do what he’s good at, “not the work, not the work. The presentation.” Yet both are outshone by Fiennes, whose Goeth is one of modern cinema’s great monsters, all the more so because he’s human, for all his faults. His performance is summed up in one brilliant scene where he lets a boy go with an “I pardon you”, subliminally pardons himself in the mirror, then goes out and shoots the boy, which Spielberg ingeniously doesn’t show, only through the reaction in the face of the passing by Kingsley. Throw in the superb editing, design, photography (recalling the wartime documentaries of the period) and music and Spielberg weaves a horrifying tapestry and document about man’s inhumanity to man and, equally importantly, his humanity in the face of such inhumanity. When watching it again to review it here, at the point where the naked women receive water in the gas chambers, a relative tells me “can you imagine the relief?” I said “no, and nor can you.” All we can hope for is that, for all time, nor will anyone else ever have to.

What does a child know? And especially that child – Serge D. – who wanted to know everything except what was about him? What absence from the world will later make being present in front of the images of the world necessary? I know of few expressions more beautiful than the one coined by Jean-Louis Schefer when, in L'homme ordinaire du cinéma, he speaks about the “films that have watched our childhood”. Because it is one thing to learn to watch movies as a “professional” – only to verify that movies concern us less and less – but it is another to live with those movies that watched us grow and that have seen us, early hostages of our future biographies, already entangled in the snare of our history. Psycho, La Dolce vita, The Indian Tomb, Rio Bravo, Pickpocket, Anatomy of a Murder, The Sacrilegious Hero or precisely Nuit et brouillard are not for me movies like any other. To the brutal question “Is this watching you?” they all answer yes.
The dead bodies of Nuit et brouillard and two years later those in the first frames of Hiroshima mon amour are among those “things” that have watched me more than I have seen them. Eisenstein attempted to make such images but Hitchcock succeeded. Just as an example: how can I ever forget the first encounter with Psycho? We snuck into the Paramount Opera theatre without paying and the movie was very ordinarily terrorising us. But then, towards the end, there is a scene on which my perception slides, slapdash editing from which emerge only grotesque props: a cubist dressing gown, a falling wig, a brandished knife. And from the fear shared with the rest of the audience follows the calm of a resigned solitude: the brain functions as a secondary projector that would keep the image going, leaving the film and the world continuing without it. I cannot imagine a love for cinema that does not rest firmly on this stolen present: “to continue without me”.

What I understand today is that the beauty of Stevens' movie is due less to the justness of the distance than to the innocence of the gaze. Justness is the burden of the one who comes “after”; innocence is the terrible grace granted to the first arrived, to the first one who simply makes the gestures of cinema. It wasn't until the mid '70s that I recognised in Pasolini's Salò or even in Syberberg's Hitler the other meaning of the word “innocent”: not so much the non-guilty one but the one who filming evil doesn't think evil. In 1959, young boy stiffened by his discovery, I was already caught in the sharing of the collective guilt. But in 1945, it was perhaps enough to be American and to witness, like George Stevens or Corporal Samuel Fuller at Falkenau, the opening of the real gates of the night while holding a camera. You had to be American – i.e. to believe in the fundamental innocence of the show – to make the German population walk by the open tombs, to show them what they were living next to, so well and so badly. It took ten years before Resnais began editing and 15 years before Pontecorvo made one move too many that infuriated us, Rivette and I. Necrophilia was therefore the price of this “delay” and the erotic body double of the “just” gaze – the gaze of guilty Europe, Resnais' gaze and consequently mine.

It is the other pornography – the “artistic” pornography of Kapo, of The Night Porter and other retro '70s movies – that has always revolted me. To the consensual attempts to create post-aesthetics, I would prefer the stubborn return of the non-images of Nuit et brouillard or even the flowing desire in Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS that I would not see. These films at least had the honesty to acknowledge an impossibility to tell a story, a stopping point in the course of history, when storytelling is stilled or runs in neutral. So we should not speak about amnesia or repression but rather about foreclosure. I would later learn the Lacanian definition of foreclosure: hallucinatory return into the real of something upon which it had not been possible to produce a “judgement of reality”. To say it differently: since moviemakers had not filmed the policies of the Vichy government at the time, their duty 50 years later was not to imaginarily redeem themselves with movies like Au revoir les enfants but to draw today's portrait of this good people of France who from 1940 to 1942 (and that includes the Vel' d'Hiv raid) did not move. Cinema being the art of present, remorse is of no interest.

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