If there has been one event in the last century that has been the most sobering visibility into the evil of mankind, it would be the Holocaust. Now, I’m not trying to downplay any other genocides that may have happened in the last 100 years, but by and far the most documented and tragic of these was the purposeful eradication of the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazi party. The inhumanity that was suffered at the hands of this ethnic cleansing should never be forgotten, lest history repeat itself. And yet, the stories of those who survived and those who live on to tell their terrible tale gives us a small amount of hope. After all, in the midst of this tragedy, some true angels and saints were revealed in some unlikely places. My only hope is that while movies about the Holocaust are powerful, current events never head into this realm again. This week’s two films look at part of what it was like to either be in the Holocaust, or help prevent it.
Life is Beautiful
Length: 116 minutes / 1.93 hours
What is perhaps the most frightening thing about the Holocaust is that no one really saw it coming. In fact, few understood the scope of the whole thing until it was over and the perpetrators were questioned about what really went on in those concentration camps. Truly, the saddest part about the suddenness of this genocide was that some of those affected had their lives together and everything was looking like it would end up great. And yet, sometimes the experiences during peacetime came in handy for being able to survive the deplorable conditions of these camps and the frightening treatment that the Jews had to endure. The hardest part would be trying to find a silver lining in the whole process in order to keep your hope up. What would have been harder is doing so to keep your child alive.
In 1930’s Italy, things couldn’t be better. World War I is in the past and everyone is enjoying life. Guido Orefice (Roberto Benigni) is just one of these people. As a bookstore owner, he pursues a beautiful woman by the name of Dora (Nicoletta Braschi) who lives in the next town over. Their romance flourishes and they eventually get married and have a son, Giosué (Giorgio Cantarini). Unfortunately, life throws the family a bit of a curveball when the Nazis come and occupy thier little world. Dora and Guido are separated and sent to different concentration camps, but Guido is fortunate enough to have Giosué with him in his camp. Using his natural talent for humor, Guido keeps his son alive by making him believe that the whole concentration camp experience is a game, for which the prize is a tank. Can Guido keep this ruse up long enough for the allies to defeat the Nazis and bring freedom to him and his son?
Length: 195 minutes / 3.25 hours
Part of the problem with generalizations is that they often overlook some key exceptions. For instance, not all Germans were dedicated to wiping out the Jews. In fact, the reason that so many survived the Holocaust was due to the ingenuity and cunning of not only themselves (as seen in Life is Beautiful), but in those Germans who saw what was happening and took a stand against it. And yet, a few being saved in an attic or basement is good, but when a whole factory full of Jews is saved in plain sight, people tend to stand up and take notice. Still, when facing such a movement like the Holocaust, every person saved is precious, but more could always have been saved. Placed within the top 10 of AFI’s top 100 movies, Schindler’s List also won Steven Spielberg an Oscar for Best Director and Best Picture.
Shot in black and white (with a brief splash of color for impact), this film has a power and a presence to it that brings forth all of the emotions from this dark hour in the history of the world. Schindler’s List exposes the work of an Austrian industrialist, Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who saved over 1,000 Jews from being killed. By making the Polish Jews workers in his factory, he could simultaneously save lives and hinder the Nazi’s conquest of Europe by providing defective merchandise to the war machine. Occasionally, his operations would come under Nazi scrutiny, but he always managed to keep the large amount of Jews a secret. Of course, in order to save people, money was required. Schindler was fortunate to be wealthy, but even at the end, he was heartbroken that he couldn’t have saved more.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Holocaust memories