Part of a group of young Hollywood directors who emerged from film schools in the 1970s - George Lucas ("Star Wars") and Francis Ford Coppola ("The Godfather"). All phenomenonally successfull at the box office. SP has shown skill at movie making in almost all the main genres of film (SF, fantasy, action/adventure, horror, as well as serious drama). Likes to base films on novels. Recurrent theme is innocence of childhood, child's perspective of adult word.


  • "The Sugarland Express" (1974) - first feature film
  • "Jaws" (1975) - horror film
  • "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977)
  • "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981) - recreated 1930s style Saturday matinee adventure, followed by "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (1984) and "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" (1989)
  • "ET: The Extraterrestrial" (1982) - the highest grossing SF film with a child-like ET
  • "The Color Purple" (1985) - based upon Alice Walker's novel
  • "Amazing Stories" (1985-6) - TV series
  • "Empire of the Sun" (1987) - J.G. Ballard's memoirs of a boy caught in China after the Japanese invasion
  • "Hook" (1991) - based on the children's story by J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan.
  • "Jurassic Park" (1993) - based upon Michael Crighton's novel.


The Novel

Based upon Australian novelist Thomas Keneally's 1982 Booker Prize winning novel Schindler's Ark (Sevenoaks: Hodder and Stoughton, 1983). Note his American Civil War novel The Confederates (1979) (Glasgow: Fontana, 1981). In the "Author's Note" Keneally recalls how he came to hear about the survival of the Schindler Jews: his meeting with Leopold Pfefferberg in his shop in Beverly Hills in 1980, interviews with 50 survivors from 7 countries, a vist to Poland with Pfefferberg, documents from the memorial Yad Vashem in Israel. He concludes that:

To use the texture and devices of a novel to tell a true story is a course which has frequently been followed in modern writing. It is the one I have chosen to follow here; both because the crarft of the novelist is the only craft to which I can lay claim, and because the novel's techniques seem best suited for a character of such ambiguity and magnitude as Oskar. I have attemtpted to avoid all fiction, though, since fiction would debase the record, and to distinguish between reality and the myths which are likely to attach themselves to a man of Oskar's stature. Sometimes it has been necessary to attempt to reconstruct conversations of which Oskars and others have left only the briefest record. But most exchanges and conversations, and all events, are based on the detailed recollections of the Schindlerjuden (Schindler Jews), of Schinidler himself, and of other eyewitnesses to Oskar's acts of outrageous rescue.


Meaning of the Title

The original novel's title was Schindler's Ark - a reference perhaps to Noah's Ark in which were rescued a pair of all the animals threatened by the Flood. The film's title Schindler's List refers to the list of names drawn up of those who would work for Schindler and thus escape death in the camps.


  • Liam Neeson - the Czech-born German businessman Oscar Schinidler
  • Ralph Fiennes - the Commandant of Plaszow labour camp Untersturmführer Amon Goeth
  • Ben Kingsley - Schindler's accountant Itzhak Stern
  • Caroline Goodall - Emilie Schindler
  • Embeth Davidtz - Helen Hirsch
  • Jonathan Sagalle, Malgoscha Gebel, Shmulik Levy, Mark Ivanir, Beatrice Macola

SP's "message film" the profits of which are to go into a foundation to promote the popular understanding of the Holocaust. Copies of the video are to be made available to American schools. SS is funding oral history project to record memories of Schindler Jews (and others) who survived the camps. Based on life of Catholic Czech-born German businessman Oscar Schindler who used Jews in his factories making eating utensils for the German army. Schindler went broke paying bribes to protect the over 1,000 Jews who worked for him, thbus saving their lives from almost certain death in the camps. Caused a storm of controversy when it appeared over its claim to be historically accurate. According to a documentary made by Jon Blair for Thames Television in 1983 OS had worked for German military intelligence before the war (which may explain why his operation was left alone for so long). This is not discussed by S. Won seven Oscars including Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction, Cinematography, Editing, and Original Score (John Williams).


Spielberg's Holocaust: Critical Perspectives on Schindler's List, ed. Yosefa Loshitzky (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997).

Frank Manchel, "A Reel Witness: Steven Spielberg's Representation of the Holocaust in Schindler's List," Journal of Modern History, 1995, vol. 67, no. 1, pp. 83-100.

Victoria Carchidi, "Schindler's List: At Home with the Holocaust or, Hollywood Atrocities," Australasian Journal of American Studies, July 1996, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 65-76.

Annette Insdorf, Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust (2nd edition, Cambridge University Press, 1989).

Lawrence Langer, "The Americanization of the Holocaust on Stage and Screen", in Lawrence L. Langer, Admitting the Holocaust. Collected Essays, (New York: OUP 1995), pp. 157-178.

Evan Williams, "Hell in black and white," The Weekend Australian, February 12-13, 1994.


  • The use of colour and B&W - the framing device of beginning and ending the film in colour; the use of black and white photography - is the past more real in b&w? attempt to make the past look like old photographs? like a documentary? Evan Williams' "Hell in black and white"; the use of colour (the red coat) to highlight a little girl fleeing. SP's theme of the child's perspective of events.
  • The character of Schindler - spy for German military intelligence (Abwehr), opportunist, playboy, war-time racketeer vs humanitarian, employer concerned for welfare of his employees. Why does OS help the "Schindler Jews"? Begins with impersonal interest in the profits they bring him (cheaper than Polish workers, gets an appartment from dispossessed Jew, got cheap Jewish investment in his factories, made use of their contacts with regime), comes to like his workers through the contact brought about by the economic relationship he has with them. Turning poiint seems to be his witnessing liquidation of ghetto (is he the only one to see the little girl in red?). In the last hour of the film the depiction of OS becomes increasingly hagiographic. OS's final speech before the gathered workers in the factory apparently did not happen.
  • The treatment of Jews by the Nazis: the depiction of the Krakow Jewish "ghetto" liquidated 13 March 1943; the systematic way in which the Jews were dispossesed of their meagre personal property, which was sorted for re-use in the German war economy. Chilling scene of Jews sorting personal effects.
  • The excessively "black and white" characterisation of the main players - OS is too saintly (ignoring his self-interest and connection with military intelligence); Goeth is too evil (in Blair's documentary G's lover complains he was not an animal; "power corrupts"); the Jews are not entirely innocent (Primo Levi's "grey zone" of those Jews who got some personal benefits by serving the Nazis as Kapos).
  • Spielberg's view of the Holocaust: the powerful image of the crematoria chimneys at Auschwitz - their awesome "beauty"; why make a film about the few Jews who survived instead of the millions who were summarily executed (by shooting, overwork or industrialised gassing)?; reluctance to show death by gassing (anti-climax of Schindler's female Jews), most Jews in film killed by shooting; his avoidance of showing the use of Jews as collaborators in their persecution - the "Kapos" and Jews bribing other Jews to get on the "list"; why a "happy ending" (the redemption of OS and the survival of "his" Jews)?
  • THE question for historians - how well has SS combined entertainment and "documentary history". The film is twice removed from the events its depicts (based on a novel based upon interviews with survivors recalling events 35 years afterwards). The film reviewer for The Australian, Evan Williams concludes that:

It seemed to me then that those events (the Holocaust) wereso terrible in their scale and intensity, so sacredly embedded in our global memories of guilt and suffering, so unapproachable in their power to dismay and disturb any rational faith in human values, that they should be apprehended only through literature or through documentaries of the most measured and scrupulous kind. ... (such as Shoah or Peter Cohen's Architecture of Doom)

Thanks to Spielberg I know now that my earlier view was mistaken. It is true that Schindler's List is a work of entertainment but it is also a great and responsible work of documentary history - or at least a documentary in style and purpose. That some of its events have been dramatised, perhpas distorted, even invented, is the way of all works of entertainment based essentially on truth; and to ask of everything in this film, "Did this actually happen?" is, I think, not only trivial but probably meaningless.