Spielberg’s Magnificent Tales of Human Courage
Spielberg made the movie because as he said 'I was drawn to it because of the paradoxical nature of the character.
Steven Spielberg’s genius was cemented with his second turn as director of a major motion picture. Jaws rewrote the rule book for cinematic terror while simultaneously marking out Spielberg as a director to watch. The man has since gone on to give such iconic hits as E.T, The Indiana Jones series and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
But none of these stupendous box office successes won him that coveted Oscar for best director. Spielberg would win two of the prestigious awards for movies very different from his escapist box office spectaculars. The Oscars would come to him for true stories of ordinary men, fighting an extraordinary situation. Both stories detail the triumph of the human spirit against insurmountable odds.
Spielberg has shown great affinity to tell stories of real people in situations that test their courage, fortitude and grit. Here’s a look at five great Spielberg movies where the human spirit soars higher than even the prevailing laws of the land.
One of the most critically acclaimed films about the holocaust, this Spielberg film takes the audience into World War II. The story is about Oskar Schindler who creates a list (Schindler’s list) of workers he would need for his new factory, thereby saving some of the condemned Jews from execution. But it is also the story of a German businessman, who profited greatly from the war but lost it all to save the lives of the Jews. Spielberg made the movie because as he said "I was drawn to it because of the paradoxical nature of the character. What would drive a man like this to suddenly take everything he had earned and put it all in the service of saving these lives?" It’s a question the movie tries to answer.
Bridge of Spies
Bridge of Spies raises the question of duty. James B Donovan defends a Russian spy arrested in the US at the height of the cold bar and argues that the spy was just doing his job. He was not a man betraying his country. He was in fact doing the duty he had been sent to the US to carry out. Donovan’s vigorous defence of another man’s rights—strikes an empathetic cord about the rights of every man, even an enemy, to a fair trial. That the spy later gets to go home thanks to a prisoner exchange just makes this movie about duty and sacrifice so much more satisfying.
This is another movie, based on a true story, which Spielberg chooses to showcase the many layers that go into the making of his plots. On face of it Viktor Navaorski is a man without a country. He cannot enter the US as his passport is no longer valid and he cannot go back to Krakozia due to the civil war there. It is also the story of a loving son wishing to fulfil the wishes of this father. All Navaorski wants from his US trip is to get the autograph of a jazz player. That’s it. While anyone else would have given up in the face of the insurmountable odds, Navorski is determined to honour his father’s wish. He uses all the weapons in his armoury—patience, charm and love. This is both a story of the plight of an innocent man caught in the crossfire of a war; and the story of simple man, with a simple dream and the determination to fulfill it.
Catch Me if You Can
Another wonderfully nuanced movie based on a true story. Catch Me if You Can is as much about the glorious exploits of the conman Frank Abagnale and the cat and mouse chase with FBI agent Carl Hanratty, as it is about a lonely little boy devastated by the divorce of his parents. Frank leaves home after the divorce and his search for an identity leads him across continents to a life of crime. Carl finds the criminal but eventually helps the boy find himself.
This is another adaptation of a true story that gets the special Steven Spielberg touch. Amistad is simultaneously a legal as well as a moral battle. While the prevailing law of the land treats the Africans on the ship Amistad as slaves and therefore a commodity, their defense lawyer argues for their right to live as free men. Should these men who have hijacked their slave ship be treated for piracy and murder? Or should they be in fact set free, because they were captured against their will and were being shipped to the US to be sold as slaves? After a gripping court room drama—that has the iconic scene of Cinque (Djimon Honsou) the leader of the Africans shouting in court “give us, us free,” they are eventually freed. As an interesting aside this incident caused tensions between the South and the North of America to escalate. That would eventually lead to the civil war that ended up abolishing slavery from the United States. So a pretty significant moment in the history of civil rights!
The world’s pre-eminent auteur celebrates his 71st birthday on the 18th of December. To honor him and his work, Club Prive on &Privé HD will be showcasing some of his more humane tales between the 18th to the 22nd of December. Tune in to share the battle and ultimate triumph of the human spirit. Stories told in that uniquely Spielberg way.
This is a partnered post.