Posted on Wednesday, December 26th, 2018 by Joshua Meyer
Two of the 20th century’s greatest films are bound together by the same historical tragedy. When it arrived in theaters in mid-December 1993 — just six months after his summer blockbuster, Jurassic Park — critics and audiences alike embraced Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List as a masterpiece. More than just an awards season drama, the film provided what’s been called a “first foundational encounter with the Holocaust” for a whole generation of viewers. It soon emerged as the crowning achievement in Spielberg’s career, earning him his first Best Director Oscar and his only Best Picture Oscar. In 1998, a mere half-decade after its release, Schindler’s List placed in the top ten on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest American movies of all time.
The movie had its detractors, however. Not everyone was enamored of Spielberg’s dramatic approach to the weighty, real-life subject matter. One of the most vocal critics was Claude Lanzmann, a French filmmaker known for his own landmark Holocaust documentary, Shoah. Released in 1985, Shoah helped inspire the pseudo-documentary look of Schindler’s List. In 2012, it was this film, not Spielberg’s, that showed up in the results of the British Film Institute’s once-a-decade poll of the 50 greatest films of all time. Yet when Shoah was commemorating its own 25th anniversary back in 2010, Lanzmann lamented to The New York Times that his film had “disappeared from the American scene.”
Earlier this year, Lanzmann passed away, and now all eyes are on Schindler’s List again as we recognize the quarter century that has passed since its release. Recent world events have made both of these films more relevant than ever, and rather than be at odds, Schindler’s List and Shoah stand as necessary companion pieces in the preservation of Holocaust awareness.