Yesterday, twenty three years after it was released, I watched Schindler’s List for the first time. I didn’t feel glad after I had done so. I was quite fed-up after watching it, but not for the reasons which might seem obvious.
Contrast this film with a later WW2 movie – Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. The Schindler picture is certainly the more ‘serious’ picture, and it’s based on actual events; Basterds is Tarantino’s ‘bunch-of-guys-on-a-mission’ movie and is significantly counter-factual, so one might expect all the ‘weight’ to be with Schindler and all the – well, all the Tarantino to be in Basterds.
Here’s one thing which annoys me about WW2 movies. I don’t like it when English or American actors play the Nazis and talk in English, either with or without a German accent. It’s convenient for the viewers (some of them) but it annoys me. I’d rather read subtitles. It makes the movie more believable.
(Actually, what else annoys me is when the foreign language is dubbed into English. The French zombie movie Le Horde was ruined in this way; the original, which I preferred because I have no problem reading, was a hundred times better than the unwatchable dubbed fuck-up which followed it.)
For all the seriousness of Schindler, the two lead roles are played by an Englishman and an Irishman, they speak in accented English, and spoken German is left to the background players for background noise.
Tarantino cast French actors to play the French characters and native German speakers to play the German characters. Why is their more authenticity in a ‘less serious’ movie than in the ‘serious’ Schindler?
Could Inglorious Basterds be a more serious movie than Schindler?
It certainly is. Schindler is about a ‘more serious’ topic, but Basterds is the more serious movie.
Also – and I’m not going to name them – but plenty of humans knew all about the deliberate destruction of the Jews from outside Germany, our hero Schindler only seems to realise the Nazis are a little nasty after accidently watching a Jew ghetto being cleared, and only then does his moral wheel start (very slowly) turning, though he’s working quite close to the military.
Another point needs to be made. Shooting it in black and white was a mistake. Black and white film was never an aesthetic choice, it was a technical limitation. It’s the same with silent movies, why make a ‘silent movie’ these days? Those who went to the cinema in the 1920s might have taken silent movies for granted, but every person would have known that people, in real life, spoke words when they moved their mouths to speak, just as they would have known the real world is not black and white. Reality wasn’t black and white during the silent era, and it wasn’t black and white when Schindler was made. Black and white is nostalgia, or an attempt to be ‘arty’.