What can one person do to resist insurmountable cruelty?
It’s a question Steven Spielberg tried to explore in 1993 with Schindler’s List, and 25 years later, the Oscar-winning film is returning to theaters to offer an answer to a new generation.
The film will be re-released Dec. 7, and EW has an exclusive look at the new trailer. Fair warning: Even if you’ve seen the film before, you may want to grab a tissue before watching.
“They say your factory is a haven. They say you are good.”
“Who says that?” Oskar Schindler (played by Liam Neeson) asks.
It’s the goodness that will grab your heart, the moments of joy or comfort that brighten the overwhelming darkness: a Jewish wedding in the labor camp, with a lightbulb being crushed instead of a wine glass. Ben Kingsley’s Itzhak Stern thanking Schindler for saving so many lives, even as the factory owner grieves that he could’ve save more.
In Schindler’s List, there is an unshakable belief in hope and optimism among the powerless, among the trapped and tormented, while those who do have power, like the title character, demonstrate that one person can make a difference if only he or she chooses to act.
Spielberg himself tells EW that Schindler’s story “shows the power of the individual,” and the tagline on the re-release poster is: “A story of courage that the world needs now more than ever.”
“When the film initially came out, it made one of the most incomprehensible acts of humankind accessible,” Spielberg says. “It didn’t make it understandable, but reachable to audiences to be able explore it, to be moved in such a way to want to stand against all hatred, and know it is real and what can shockingly happen in the 20th and now the 21st centuries if we are not vigilant.”
He hasn’t changed or updated the content of the film in any way, except to remix the sound in Dolby Atmos and 7.1 to accommodate advances in theater technology. The re-release will also be offered in Dolby Vision laser projection, which the filmmaker praises for providing “deeper, richer blacks, more contrast, and brightness to the image.”
For the generation born after its release, Schindler’s List is one more reminder that Nazis aren’t just convenient movie villains in action pictures — they’re monsters, but they’re also real.
“I think we found a door to allow people to talk about the consequences of hatred in all its forms in a more open way,” Spielberg says. “Films have that capacity to move people to explore and understand the most tragic and horrific events in history, and at the same time to highlight the resiliency of the human spirit.”
Schindler’s List won Best Picture and earned Spielberg his first directing Oscar, while also collecting Academy Awards for score (John Williams), adapted screenplay (Steven Zaillian), cinematography (Janusz Kamiński), editing (Michael Kahn), and production design (Allan Starski and Ewa Braun.)
Spielberg says he hopes it stands alongside other World War II Oscar winners like 1946’s The Best Years of Our Lives, in which director William Wyler explored the complexities of returning home for American veterans. “[That] was a film I believe opened a conversation, made people view each other differently, and had an impact on a generation,” Spielberg says. “I hope Schindler’s List did and still does that in its own way.”
Making the movie already inspired him to establish the USC Shoah Foundation, which has documented the experiences of survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides. Spielberg calls it “a saving machine to counter the killing machine.”
“These eyewitness accounts are having a profound impact on educators and students, through testimony-based tools that address both historical and contemporary issues; inspiring empathy, understanding, respect and unity over hatred and divisiveness,” he says.
To Spielberg, the ongoing educational work of USC Shoah Foundation “is the film’s most enduring legacy.”