In 1993, Steven Spielberg rocked Hollywood with an incredible one-two. He cemented his rep as the industry's ultimate popcorn-pusher and then banished it forever with a shattering, tear-stained masterpiece of Holocaust horror. CG dinosaurs made Jurassic Park the most successful movie of all time. But after Schindler's List, it was Spielberg, seemingly, whonow ruled the Earth.
So as a patented Oscar-hoover, Spielberg's List was a no-brainer, earning the beardy filmmaker his much-lusted-after Best Director statuette. But in crafting the incredible story of Oskar Schindler - the German entrepreneur who saved more than 1,200 Jews from the Nazi gas chambers by giving them jobs in his factory in Poland - the 'Berg battled off his reptilian impulses towards compromise and calculation. Certainly, melodrama seeps though and history has been blurred (our little red riding hood; Schindler's crowd-pleasing, climactic breakdown...), but what remains shockingly clear is the indelible fusion of Spielberg's genius for humanist storytelling and the horrified, unblinking realism of his Holocaust depiction.
Filming on many of the locations where the events of Thomas Keneally's biog-book Schindler's Ark took place, Spielberg lights up history's nightmare in vivid black-and-white: gut-wrenching docu-verité camerawork captures the stricken panic of the Jews as they're harried and slaughtered, while the Nazis are lensed against a sheen of beautiful Expressionist movie-gloss. And, colliding in a subtle flipside character-composition, Spielberg's two acting totems back him with remarkable performances. Ralph Fiennes, as the monstrous Commandant Amon Goeth who uses Jews for target practise, embodies the bloated banality of evil. Liam Neeson, meanwhile, is magnificent in the lead, protecting Schindler's enigma (playboy, profiteer, saint) to the last. Schindler's List is as it will remain: profoundly moving, profoundly shocking, profoundly important.