Having snubbed this week’s Berlin Film Festival, Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” is skedded to bow at a Frankfurt gala March 1. Industry opinion on how a film revolving around Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution” will go over with modern German audiences, however, is decidedly mixed.
The only World War II films to achieve any kind of success here have been those, like “Das Boot” or “Stalingrad,” which depict Germans as victims. Claude Lanzmann’s epic docu “Shoah”– a series of interviews and no archival footage — did fairly well on TV.
According to a member of this year’s Berlinale Film Jury, the pic “certainly won’t be another ‘Jurassic Park.’ ” He told Daily Variety, “The success of this film will all depend on whether it’s seen as a Holocaust film, a Spielberg film or an action-adventure.”
Michel Friedman, host of the skedded Frankfurt gala and son of two Jews saved by Oskar Schindler, is certain the film will be a hit. “It was a great book and is a great theme. More important than anything else is that it exposes the statement ‘There was nothing I could do’ as a lie.”
Yet this is exactly what might keep local Spielberg fans away from theaters. An entertainment lawyer in his 40s says, “Germans won’t go to see ‘Schindler’s List.’ This continuing re-analysis of the past is too heavy. It’s not what we want to see at the movies.”
Spielberg turned down a generous offer from Berlin Film Festival prexy Moritz de Hadelm of a “special platform” on which to showcase his film at the festival.
The patron of the film’s German opening, to be held in the Frankfurt Opera house, will be President Richard von Weizacker. The 800 seats will go for $ 175 apiece; proceeds will be donated to a fund for the restoration and maintenance of Auschwitz. Aside from the gala opening, United Intl. Pictures has no plans for special marketing. A rep for London-based Jerry Lewis, UIP’s man in charge of “Schindler’s List” in Europe, told Daily Variety, “Marketing in Germany will be no different from marketing in other European countries.”
UIP will begin placing ads in late February. “Schindler’s List” will bow March 3 with 30 screens and expand to 170 screens March 17.