Steven Spielberg's harrowing Nazi Holocaust drama is one of cinema's most controversial films. Here was the man who had brought us escapist blockbusters, such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws and Jurassic Park, turning his attention to the murder of six million Jews. Surely this wasn't an appropriate subject for the Hollywood director?
In the event, Spielberg silenced most critics - and reduced many audiences to tears - with his three-hour, multi-Oscar winning masterpiece. Very much a personal project, Spielberg had wanted to film Thomas Keneally's novel Schindler's Ark for years, but felt he hadn't the maturity and artistic freedom - let alone the finances - to do so. But after the huge success of Jurassic Park, he was finally able to turn his attention to the true story of a shady Nazi industrialist and the 1,100 Jewish factory workers whom he saved from the death camps.
Brilliantly shot in stunning black-and-white photography - often with hand-held, reportage-style camerawork - there's enormous depth and intricate detail here. The story follows Oskar Schindler (powerfully played by Liam Neeson, pictured), an unsuccessful Czech businessman, who arrives in Kraków, shortly after the beginning of the Second World War. A Nazi party member, he hopes to use the huge numbers of Jews whom are imprisoned within the Polish ghetto as a slave force in his factory, manufacturing goods for the German military. His Jewish plant manager Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley, pictured) becomes his right-hand man, finding finance from the Jewish underground and falsifying documents so that as many Jews as possible are deemed essential for the project.
A new and inhuman Nazi commandant, Amon Göth (a stunning performance by Ralph Fiennes), arrives in Kraków to construct a labour camp, and promptly clears the ghetto. A turning point in the film, Schindler is profoundly affected by the ensuing massacre, but, despite his shock, continues to keep well in with the SS.
Eventually orders come from Berlin that the labour camp is to be dismantled and for all the remaining Jews to be sent to Auschwitz. After Goth has agreed a payment, Schindler and Stern (pictured) assemble a list of workers who are to be spared and sent to Schindler's new factory in Moravia, Austria. Most of the Schindler Jews arrive safely at the new plant, but one of the trains is accidentally redirected to Auschwitz...