Sometimes there are things you read or watch, that just stick with you. Or some particular story or anecdote that you always have associated with a particular type of feeling or experience, that it becomes your go-to example for the rest of your life.
Schindler’s List the movie at came out at just the right time, that when I was doing World War 2 in school, was encouraged to watch. Or possibly made, I have memory of seeing a “Schools Edition”. Needless to say, I appreciated it more, later. It’s full of good people, it’s not a bad story, some of the imagery is quite clever and haunting. The actors alongside the people they played at the end.
Spielberg’s pretty good at sentimentality, and the film does rather reflect that. The feel of the film is, these people are living through this time that’s very bleak, and oh, it’s so hard and dangerous, and oh no this new situation is even direr.
I read the book the film was based on. My copy is called “Schindler’s Ark”, although I think because of the movie it got renamed to “Schindler’s List”. It’s by Thomas Keneally. The tone is very different.
Rather than the melancholy tone of the movie, the book is much more adventurous. Much more in the way of “previously he’s used his stores of wine to bribe the guards, but now he’s out and has to get across this bridge, which is guarded by two Nazi soldiers. Technically he’s not supposed to go across. How’s he going to get through this?” and so on. Much more enthusiastic and vibrant. More of a sense of just how many times Oskar stuck his neck out for his workers, tried to use the bureaucracy against itself, getting into serious trouble, and how almost unbelievable it is that he got out of trouble again.
I’d almost like to see a movie of the book, one that retains the tone, style and flair.
The only drawback to the book, is that some of those Polish street names are HARD. I thought about asking some Polish co-workers at one point about the pronunciations, but in the end, I didn’t. There were points I just pigeonholed some of the names, recognising the shape of the name and saying, “ok, it’s that one”, rather than forcing my brain to butcher the language each time I came across it. So that’s more to do with my own inadequacies (which, who knows, you might share) than any actual problem with the book.
So Schindler’s List is my go-to reference for difference in tone between book and film.
The film’s not bad. I read a Rabbi’s article saying that everyone told him he should see the movie but he didn’t, because he had certain expectations about the Hollywood-isation of the Holocaust, and other things along those lines, then he read about the movie later, which was apparently enough to confirm his suspicions. For that sort of reason I wouldn’t say the film was a “must-see”, and although the UK ratings certificate says it’s for 15-year-olds and older, I think that might be too young to really appreciate it. And I say this as someone who’s still pretty pleased to have got the Collector’s Edition DVD, with the film cel, little booklet and soundtrack.
On the other hand, the book is much more recommendable, if it were fiction it might be classified with seat-of-the-pants thrillers. So if that kind of book is your kind of thing, and/or if history is your kind of thing, this book’s a winner.