“Influence is a matter of circumstance and luck: what we are shown and what we stumble upon in those brief years when our hearts and minds are fully open.”1-Ann Patchett
Those brief childhood years Patchett describes are over for me, and that’s how I know no film will ever impact me like Schindler’s List.
It shot through me when I was twelve years old and wide open.
After the film, my mother and I had planned to go shopping.
Maybe we talked, but in my memory we made the drive to Kaufmann’s in total silence, having not spoken a word since we walked out of the theater.
She pulled into the parking lot. We didn’t get out of the car.
“Let’s just go home,” my mother said. I nodded.
When we arrived home I got in bed and slept for the rest of the day.
I haven’t seen Schindler’s List in 28 years—despite often saying I’d like to revisit it as an adult, I don’t have the heart. To rewatch the moment when Schindler—who has done so much for the Jews, at great personal cost—breaks down because he did not do more, lamenting that he could’ve sold his car or his pin to save more lives.
Or to watch the epilogue when real-life survivors from Schindler’s factory—now old and gray—place stones on the real Schindler’s grave. A reminder that the Holocaust was not yet history—those who had lived through it still walked the earth.
Even now, it’s not as far behind us as we like to pretend.
At twelve, I didn’t have the words to explain how confusing it is that mankind is capable of such great evil and great courage.
I still don’t.
1From Ann Patchett’s essay To the Doghouse (which is not about Schindler’s List in any way), reprinted in her collection These Precious Days.
This is part of my Movies I’m Grateful For series, running daily through the month of November.
Other films include: Splash | New Moon | The Lucky One | Thelma and Louise | Katy Perry: Part of Me | Crazy Rich Asians | Under the Tuscan Sun | Terminator 2 | Moulin Rouge! | How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days | Practical Magic |