Schindler's List: 25th Anniversary Edition 4K Ultra HD

Featured In Issue 236, February 2019

WSR Score5
Basic Information on new release titles is posted as soon as titles are announced. Once reviewed, additional data is added to the database.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
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Language, some sexuality and actuality violence
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Single Side, Dual Layer (BD-66)
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Steven Spielberg
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Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1
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Schindler's List is Director Steven Spielberg's Oscar®-winning epic based upon the novel by Thomas Keneally. It is the story of Oskar Schindler (Neeson), a German industrialist who becomes a hero by actively preventing the more than 1,100 Jewish workers in his factory from being sent to their deaths in the Nazi extermination camps. It is a true story of hope and the human spirit, told in an intense, yet lyrical, three-hour-plus portrait of the Holocaust—echoing the Scriptural proverb given to Schindler by his grateful workers: "Who saves one life, saves the world." This is the 20th Anniversary Limited Edition. (Gary Reber)

There are two DVDs and a Blu-ray Disc™ included. The first DVD features Part One of the Film. The second DVD features Part Two and the following special features: "Voices From The List" (SD 01:17:27), a documentary introduced by Steven Spielberg that features interviews with Holocaust survivors who tell their incredible stories; the USC Shoah Foundation Story With Steven Spielberg (SD 04:43), in which founding chairman Spielberg explains why he started the visual history organization; and a featurette About IWitness (SD 03:48). The only special feature on the Blu-ray Disc is BD-Live. An UltraViolet Digital copy is also included.

The 1.85:1 2160p HEVC/H.265 Ultra HD HDR10/Dolby Vision picture, reviewed on a Sony Bravia Z9D 4K Ultra HD HDR display, was photographed in 35 mm Eastman film stock using the Arriflex camera systems and sourced from a 4K master Digital Intermediate format. First reviewed as an anamorphically enhanced 1.85:1 DVD in Issue 84. This new transfer presents Janusz Kaminski's gorgeous Academy Award®-winning black-and-white cinematography with an exceptionally beautifully balanced gray scale. Steven Spielberg personally supervised the extensive restoration from the original 35 mm negative. The image is complimented by a fine grain structure that is a constant companion and lends the image a breathtaking filmic texturing. Film grain inherent in the source element is barely noticed, and then mostly in lighter scenes. The imagery is more stunning than ever as a cinematic black-and-white picture. (The few color sequences offer warm, nicely balanced hues.) Deep blacks, bright whites, and an excellent gradation of visual information between the two extremes make this picture appear striking. The 2160p resolution affords the film a significant leap in sharpness over previous editions and superb contrast balance within its black-and-white photography. Images are sharp and detailed, with nicely rendered textures and definition. Facial definition is stellar, whether the young, smooth skin on younger characters or the wrinkly skin deteriorations on elderly camp detainees. Clothing, whether expensive suits, crisp Nazi military uniforms, or clothing the Jews wear, are all revealing of fine detail. Location details are impressively sharp and detailed as well, such as crowded city streets, a cathedral, dingy basements, and the wooden bunk houses in the internment camps. Textural refinement is superb. Contrast is excellent also with strong black levels, revealing shadow delineation, and bright highlights. What color there is, is nicely rendered. The red fabric of the coat the girl wears is muted and understated, yet effectively stands apart from the gray scaled surroundings. The imagery is absolutely pristine, with noise reduction applied judiciously with the utmost care. This is a wonderful epic definitive presentation of this classic motion picture depicting the struggles, fear, and horror of the Holocaust. A cinematic masterpiece! (Gary Reber)

The repurposed Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is essentially the same as the previous DTS-HD Master Audio™. Spielberg also personally supervised the remastering, with particular attention paid to the nuanced sound elements. The result is an even more chilling and emotional sonic experience. "Schindler's List" is a film that touches upon some of the most basic human feelings and instincts like power, family, love, loss, persecution, survival, religion, and community. To pull off the full emotional effect of a film as important as this one is, it takes a very powerful and poignant soundtrack to musically move those internal emotions along while your mind perceives and translates the physical action on-screen. Both sides of the mental/emotional equation must be equal to break down those subconscious walls and transport you into the experiences and guttural human feelings that a powerful film like this can provide. The soundtrack provides more than ample emotional substance through excellent fidelity and very neutral tonality to make this film an emotionally powerful experience. The front center channel accurately and precisely reproduces dialogue and voices. This is especially apparent in the very difficult-to-record outdoor scenes. The subtle vocal reflections and reverberations shine in these very hectic scenes. The front three screen channels house most of the audio activity, with the surrounds adding excellent atmosphere and ambience to the presentation. John Williams' beautiful, soulful, and sometimes haunting musical composition is one of the best movie scores you'll ever hear. The tender violin and piano melodies within his sweeping orchestral work are much more emotionally powerful in the home theatre environment than that during what was experienced when the film was in the theatre during its original theatrical release. In the home environment this outstanding score reaches you on a very personal level and electrifies the home surround sound landscape. Williams' score is so emotionally moving and wonderfully layered and textured musically that it's no wonder he won the 1994 Academy Award® for Original Score for his work on this film. Although this is a mostly quiet and subtle sound mix, more activity from the LFE channel would have been preferable. The use of the LFE channel disappoints a bit as there is minimal, albeit adequate, low-bass activity during the first half. It is not really until the second half that one hears any sort of substantial low end to the soundtrack. There are many times when some powerful and forceful .1 LFE channel activity could have added so much more dynamic range to the audio presentation, especially during the first half. The one area where more low-end extension would have been so much more effective is during the scenes in the "Liquidation Of The Warsaw Ghetto." There appears to be a "virtual" bass presence from the normal low-end audio range of the soundtrack coming from the front three loudspeakers, but there is no pronounced subwoofer activity to accentuate the brutal happenings onscreen in an audio context. This fault doesn't really take away from the final rating of the soundtrack, but the addition of more low-end bass extension in some key areas would have been more welcome.

The Immersive Sound element is prevalent in the Plaszow Forced Labor Camp scene to a spherical ambiance in the form of swirling winds. Subtle chatter above a basement scene is extended to the height layer at about 01:38. Again brief, subtle swirling winds are heard at around 02:00:00 in the camp scene. Stronger sprayed water sounds into the train cars, which will transport the Jews to Hujowa Górka, are heard intermittently around 02:08:00. Then at about 02:36:35 the sound of shower water is strong and directionalized. Long segments of silence predominate. But given the age and the subject matter, perhaps Spielberg decided to be ultimately conservative in the sound design.

This soundtrack really is wonderful to hear and experience, as it does so many things so well. (Gary Reber/Jeffrey Kern)