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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Schindler's List is a brutal, emotionally devastating three-hour drama that won several Oscars and has a powerful message about the human spirit -- but it pulls absolutely no punches when depicting the Holocaust. There are arbitrary murders and mass killings, Nazi commanders compare Jews to rats, children are killed, and there are scenes of shocking, grisly violence. There's also plenty of smoking and drinking, and several scenes of nakedness. In two of them, a woman is naked from the waist up in bed and in sexual situations. But in the rest, nakedness is used to humiliate and harass Jewish residents of concentration camps. There's full-frontal nudity of Jewish prisoners in the shower, when they are being stripped and examined, etc. There are anti-Semitic epithets as well as words such as "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "damn," and "ass."
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What's the story?
In SCHINDLER'S LIST, Steven Spielberg displays the virtuosity of a great documentary film maker: The Holocaust, in which six million Jews, political prisoners, Jehovah's Witnesses, and gays were killed, is too vast and too atrocious to fathom. So Spielberg searches history for the one true story that will make it comprehensible. He gives us Czechoslovakian businessman Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a grandiose, insinuating businessman bent on making a successful business on the backs of Jews who are robbed of their homes, jobs, property, and, many, their lives. The film follows Schindler's transformation from greedy war profiteer to humanitarian who eventually saves the lives of 1,100 people destined for death at Auschwitz. But there are two main characters in this film. If one is Schindler, the other, undoubtedly, is the Holocaust itself. Spielberg gives us the Holocaust in the names of the Schindler Jews, and uses real-life stories to make it real. We get Ihtzak Stern (played with quiet rage and dignity by Ben Kingsley), the Jewish accountant who runs Schindler's manufacturing plant. We get Helen Hirsch (Embeth Davidtz), the Jewish woman who serves as a Nazi commander's (played with icy sadism by Ralph Fiennes) maid and the object of his twisted adoration. We get, as the title implies, a list of people, of faces, of stories that make the atrocities of World War II real.
Is it any good?
There are few films more powerful and important than this 1993 winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, but that's not why you should watch this film. Watch it for the brilliant storytelling, great acting, and its message that one person can make a difference in the face of evil.
While Schindler's List is a brilliant film, its three-plus hour running time and true-to-life grisly violence make it mostly a film for adults. If you have a particularly mature teen, share this film with him and talk about it afterward. Families that watch the film may want to watch the bonus features on the real-life experiences of the Schindler Jews and on the Survivors of the Shoah Foundation. The film may prompt a discussion of genocide elsewhere in the world and what individuals can do to help put an end to it. It may also prompt a visit to a museum of tolerance or the Holocaust Museum.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about their reaction to Schindler's List's emotionally difficult material. Do you believe the atrocities depicted here can happen again? Why or why not?
Families may want to watch additional DVDs produced by the Survivors of the Shoah Foundation designed to help kids understand and confront bias.
Discuss other ways in which individuals make a difference.
- In theaters: January 1, 1993
- On DVD or streaming: September 9, 2004
- Cast: Ben Kingsley, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes
- Director: Steven Spielberg
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Integrity, Perseverance
- Run time: 196 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, violence, and some sexuality
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