Sunday afternoons are more for old films than Friday evenings. I have been thinking about this one, searching for a film, flipping through the channels. I realized need to speak from what moves me. The problem is most films don’t move me. I’m not one of those people who cries at the celluloid reunions and heartaches. I’m analytical and that is the lens I view most films through. So, finding a film that moved me should have been a reach, but it wasn’t, because when I am moved, the imprint goes deep.
The film that has that impact on me is Schindler’s List. It is probably my favorite film of all time. That is also not an easy thing to say in this day and age of Hollywood exuberance.
Of all movies I have seen, it was the one I delayed seeing the most. I didn’t see it at the theaters. I turned away from it, because I was never in the mood to be depressed. I had seen Sophie’s Choice, and that pretty much taught me slow pace and depressing is not my style. Schindler’s List sounded like it would take me down the same road, and it was LONGER and in black and white (talk about drab and drippy). I can’t stand black and white films. They are either old or pretentious in my book.
I would have made it by without ever seeing the film except for channel surfing. The downfall of many a film avoider, usually you can’t get away from a film you hate; it’ll be on what seems like every channel. In this case, I paused for a second and got sucked in. It was an evening special on , ABC, I think, commercial free. I just caught a glimpse in the camp of the women shivering and, later, the little boy in the latrine. I was drawn in, so, of course, I turned it off immediately. I suppose the “of course” does not logically follow. I am what is called a “completist.” (Yes, relatively new word. I didn’t believe it existed but it does online.) I can’t start in the middle of a series in books or on tv. I have to go to the beginning. So it was for this movie. I went out to rent it.
I could go into how wrong I was about not wanting to see it, into how moving Spielberg’s sweeping scenes were or how the black and white makes it so poignant and real to the era. I could mention how at the end, the walk of the descendants makes the tiny hairs prickle all over my body conveying that the impossible is real and worth it, inspiring more. What I want to go on about is none of that.
I’d rather look at our judgments.
You might think I’m talking about the same old judgments against a race, religion or culture. No. I just mean people in general. You don’t know who lives next to you, but you have a judgment about them. You will never know whom they are until they are tested. Let’s hope it never happens!
Usually we hear the sensational stories, the Jeffery Dahmer type stories. “He seemed so normal.” My relatives, Turks, are amazed he got away with it for so long. Wouldn’t you smell it or hear it? In Turkey you would. Someone would bash in your door before too long. No, the man could not have done what he did with that level of impunity without being in the hands off culture he was in.
What about more mundane stories? What about our judgments about the alcoholic next door? Or, the guy down the hall who has a girlfriend who keeps crying because he’s such a jerk? Meanwhile, the same guy has other women traipsing through at all hours of the day. The worst part is his wife bangs on your door when she can’t get into her own house. Usually it is because her husband has accidentally locked her out in his drunken stupor. By the way, he also is having a fling with the girl across the hall. What do you think about him?
“Jerk” is putting it mildly!
That is whom Oskar Schindler was. He was the womanizer. He was the alcoholic. He was a spendthrift. And there were many embarrassing scenes in his life. Yet, he was also one of the few who saved so many.
If he lived on my street or in my building, he would have been nothing but the best gossip. He would not be someone parents steered their children around. There’s a chance he’d even be pushed out of a community. That was the kind of guy he was until he had the chance to be something other. Until he had the chance to make a difference. How does one think of this morally? What would be the advisory tale for your children? To this day, most people wouldn’t want their kids around someone like Oskar.
We don’t know who is around us, we probably don’t even know ourselves until we are tested.