Terry Gilliam criticizes Spielberg and Schindler's List

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In a TCM interview, the legendary film director Terry Gilliam reveals his opinion on Schindler's List and Spielberg and mainstream Hollywood in general, saying things that most filmmakers, critics and viewers are too scared to express. He also mentions Stanley Kubrick, compares Kubrick and Spielberg and praises the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey for its thought-provoking ambiguity.


Fangornmmc : Am I the only person to think that there's room for both comforting and provocative films? I like my Kubrick and Gilliam just as much as I like my Spielberg.

Noah King : I don't want to get into the whole Kubrick/Gilliam vs Spielberg debate that seems to be going on in these comments (they're all brilliant IMO) but I must say the pretentious film school students I'm seeing here who seem to think that ambiguous automatically equals more intelligent are amusing to me. Just because a film gives you answers doesn't mean it's any less smart or any less honest than one that doesn't.

Rose Carlson : To think that Schindler's List was just a movie about a guy that saved 1200 ppl and that makes for a happy ending is completely missing the point of the movie. Ironic considering Gilliam compares it against Kubrick where he states Kubrick deliberately leaves questions unanswered as if that promotes deeper, philosophical thinking. Schindler's List is profoundly deep and not a happy ending. The ending makes us realize how many more lives could've been saved if only more people had cared. It asks the uncomfortable question of what lengths would a society go through to save each other, or watch others die. In this movie, Schindler is merely a symbol of how humanity should have stepped up and done something and is a painful reminder of how millions died because very few did.

Arian hmn : I am sure Terry Gilliam has a nice house too

caleb wheeler : There must be 1,000 films about the Holocaust. Spielberg's movie was about Schindler, a tale worth telling. What's wrong with that, Terry?

KatarnCrusader : In Spielbergs Defense - Schindlers List is called "Schindlers List" and its about Oskar Schindler at his life. Its not called "Holocaust the Movie"

nunouno001 : I have to say that I both agree and disagree with Terry Gillian. Steven Spielberg, while I do admire him as a film maker and a story teller. As a romantic filmmaker he is more focused on sentimentality, concrete scripts, and streamlined storytelling. This is obvious with Jaws, arguably the first blockbuster ever made. We can debate its long term effects for better and worst for years; but overall It is downgraded, simplified, and more comforting then anything Stanley Kubrick or John Carpenter would make. As a result he does have a hit(Indiana Jones, ET, Jurassic Park) and miss(War of the worlds, Hook,Crystal Skull) record. However I don't think that's a bad thing. The one great about film is its wide range and ability to accomplish so many things from creating worlds, exploring ideas, telling stories from the past or fiction for a large variety of purposes. They can make you think, or they can make you feel something. You can say that's a cop-out, but when a filmmaker is able to successfully generate sympathy for a Nazi party leader. That's quite an accomplishment. And that's why I feel that Schlinder's list is ultimately a good movie. It wasn't about the failure of civilization in preventing the Holocaust. It was about Oskar Schlinder in his personal journey from a nazi leader and his eventual transformation into a decent who was powerless to stop the horrors around him, but saw that in his own limited ways could have saved this few people from a pointless death. Because even in the darkest period of human history, there were still those who managed to retain their humanity.  Does that make Schlinder's List any better or worst then Shoah or the Pianist? I don't know. All I do know is Spielberg is a master of his craft, and that craft is romantic filmmaking or more commonly known as blockbusters. And I don't see any reason why anyone should hold that against him. Is he as good as Kubrick, definitely not, but at the same time I don't think the size of Speilberg's house should have any part in how his movies are evaluated. 

alma6911 : People need to remember that opinions are not facts.

Liam Redmond : I don't know, I might be wrong but that seems a little ungracious to me. Spielberg may be different from Kubrick but his vision a film-maker seems no less sincere or genuine to me . And I think its a little unfair to dump Spielberg with the rest of 'Hollywood' so to speak. To me he's set apart from that and any resemblance between the two can be seen as an attempt by the latter to ride Spielberg's coat-tails. I think Gilliam is just being a bit cynical here.

gutz1981 : I personally think Spielberg is at his best when he was making fun adventure films "Raiders of the Lost Ark' 'E.T' 'Jurassic Park' and 'Jaws'. He is very Hollywood stream in that regard and he is great at it. But to see his more hard edged work, he is indeed a great story teller, but it feels like Kubrick's films are the more out there and thought provoking as Gilliam stated. I will not fault Steven for making block busters, but I will say that if all films came out with a grim ideological feel like Kubrick's movies, then cinema would become a chore very quickly. Spielberg should go back to doing adventure films.

ethanr432 : I agree with Terry... None of Spielbergs movies make you think... they are the prepackaged fast food of movies.

Trent csqw : Terry Gilliam is so wrong on this. Schindler did save those people, but the whole point of the ending is that he could have saved more. Schindler isn't proud of the people he saved, he is depressed about his failure in realizing that he could have done more.

MrFennic : Just another comment on the internet.

Dillon McManus : Spielberg movies do an amazing job of affecting you on a visceral level. You feel thrilled, sad, or elated, when you watch his movies. That's why I love Spielberg. While I admit his movies may not challenge my brain(as much as kubrick), they hit me in the gut and the heart. And when I say "heart" I don't mean that they are feel-good movies. Simply that they are truly engrossing and eyes-pinned-to-the-screen fun. What's wrong with fun?

DJ_Bullets : Spielberg is a master of sentiment, Kubrick was the master of intellectual observation. Both needed in storytelling and cinema/ both appreciated. I find Spielberg's films - particularly his 80s cannon do well made and endearing that that feeling alone provides me with optimism and motivation. Kubrick at times, provides that, and then some.

Art Trivia : I feel bitterness from Gilliam. The other guy who I have heard speaking of other directors like this is Oliver Stone. The curious thing about this whole discussion, is that one of the biggest fans of Steven Spielberg was Stanley Kubrick.

Susan : The Holocaust isn't *about* anything, it's just an event that happened. It's given significance by individuals and, surprise surprise, alot of Jewish people choose to see it as a triumph not a failure. To them it's about the whole world trying to extinguish their people but them resisting and surviving and building a new land for themselves, Kubrick and Gilliam have as much right to see it as the failure of humanity as Spielberg does to see it as the triumph of the Jewish people because *nobody* is right or wrong, it's all about personal perspective. This interview, or this clip at least, portrays Gilliam as a very jealous and bitter person and I really hope that's not the case because I love his work.

Phantom Shadow : I agree with Gilliam

Alex Allan - Aulas Particulares de Inglês : Spielberg once said "In the movie industry, you either get the money or the awards!" He is fully aware that he is there to sugar-coat reality in escapist movies. Kubrick was the true auteur, making his own movies regardless of what audiences might think. Spielberg is more of  a businessman, while Kubrick was more of an artist.

Anthony Monaghan : Steven Spielberg's good, no doubt about it, but Stanley Kubrick is the real thing. No comparison.

Pr0DlgY : There is no single or "correct" way to make movies. Not every movie needs to be deep and philosophical. Spielberg invented the blockbuster and he has his own style. There is a reason why he is so succesfull, because people ENJOY his movies.. that is the whole point, to entertain. How dare he critizise someone else's hard work? It's like critizising a person's form of entertainment. what a shame.. no one is forcing you to watch anything.. some people like artsy fartsy movies, others don't. personally i like both. Variety is a good thing.

NovemberTheHacker : The point of the movie was, even in the darkest hours of humanity, "save one life and you save the world" That has meaning much deeper than the actual event.

creative+world : Gilliam is so entirely off his abstract expressionist marble here, that I'm ashamed of him. AND I'M A CREATIVE PROFESSIONAL. Gilliam is brilliant. But he's managed to distill an important (and brilliant film) into a source for his own ethos of what "irony" or "satire" should be. Kubrick made satire. Deep dark human satire. Schindler's List IS NOT A SATIRE. Schindler's List is not about "success" as Gilliam so dimly frames it. Schindler's List is about the smallest of lights of human hope in the face of the unspeakable. If Gilliam wants to see a film about "failure" in the subject of the Holocaust like he stupidly posits, then take 6 million people and line them up into a death march into the fires of Auschwitz. THEN, you would see the sheer magnitude of the failure of humanity.... AND HAVE A VERY BAD, DEPRESSING FILM. Thank goodness (the very word of it) that Spielberg made this film.

Alexandru Moraras : So based on this idea everything that doesn't make you think, be it a film, a song or a painting it's because it's not made by a good artist. Well I enjoy both, and really I get sick of these things. It's very hard to make space odyssey and it's very hard to make the hobbit for exaple. but in the end the best movie in the world is the one you like.

pluckyduck11y : This really is not a critique of skill but about attitude and disposition. Kubrick's was certainly a darker vision, but that doesn't make it better in and of itself.

Jeff Blackman : Personally, I've always felt that Spielberg's films were a little too simplistic and too formulated. However, I still enjoy them and think they are well crafted stories. Kubrick's are also marvelous. I think we are really talking about two different types of film genres - the apples and the oranges.

arfer : It is a bit simplistic of Gilliam to suppose that every film should be of a certain kind.....there is room in the film industry for lots of styles/approaches.

emanmark : I think Gilliam is missing the point. We are all aware of the horrors of war, and it seems Spielberg wasn't interested in making another movie about that, but raise questions about the nature of humanity. If Evil = fear, control, cruelty, bigotry, and hatred - Can acts of kindness, compassion, and empathy grow from such a horrible place? Ultimately, that is what Schindler's list is about, and I thought it was a great film.

19 kilo : Spielberg and Kubrick were actually extremely good friends who admired each others work.

ICallsEmLikeISeesEm : Schindler's List was amazing. A Clockwork Orange was amazing. * Shrug *

Angus Young : Please, put this man in charge of Hollywood!

Christoph G : the ending of 2001 makes you think for about 10 minutes and then you realize its dumb and a cop out really. its much easier to make an ambiguous ending than one that says something. That ending says nothing but that he couldnt figure out an ending. emperors new clothes.

Daniel Green : Damn, Gilliam. You're jealousy is showing.

frankjohnson123 : I think Kubrick didn't mean to trash Spielberg with his comment.  He was just saying that it's impossible to capture the Holocaust with a film, so he scrapped his own project as a result.

Munrais : I don't think this man understands what Schindler's List was all about. All you have to see is the scene when the list is typed and finished and Stern shows it to Schindler: STERN: “The list is an absolute good. The list is life. All around its margins lies the gulf.”

hannes1813 : You know, I ENJOY Spielberg, but Gilliam actually has quite a valid point; I've never thought about it like that.

The Drifter Within : Stop saying that Gilliam is "jealous" of Spielberg. What a shallow thing to say. He's just disappointed that mainstream audiences care more for entertainment and easy answers than for compelling cinema. You may criticize him for this idea that "everything should be art, should be Kubrick": I believe that both styles of cinema - art and escapism - can be great into their own. About Spielberg, I'm just sad to see what happened to him these last years. He used to make real escapist masterpieces such as "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", but since 1993... he's just not the same guy anymore. Don't get me wrong: I thought "Schindler's" was a good film, but far from this masterpiece everybody has made it to be. I think Spielberg doesn't have the touch for making these "serious movies": he is best served as an escapist director.

The Surfing Violinist : Terry Gilliam: the starving artist...oh, wait, what? 

Fer Abra : I do agree that Spielberg is keen on happy endings and oversimplifies subjects sometimes. That said, I think Schindler's List is a powerful movie that stands and will stand the test of time. Extremely well shot, great soundtrack, well acted, and very well scripted. Also, it appears to be pretty accurate. As for "happy endings" take "The Pianist", another holocaust movie by a great director who actually lived in Poland during the holocaust. Roman Polanski. What about that ending (SPOILER!) with the good nazi?  Also, I don't think Schindler's List is oversimplified. Actually Oskar Schindler's ambiguity is there on the screen. And Goeth is played as a nazi, racist, mean and brutal. I guess there were nice nazis that loved their wives and children and their pets, but that wouldn't have made Amon Goeth more 3D and complex. It just wouldn't have made sense. Stanley Kubrick was a genius, but so is Spielberg, and Schindler's List is one of his masterpieces. Terry Gilliam was a genius too when he was in Monty Python.

Texaco : This is the people who say all video game need to be super hard.

smxwing : But Schindler saved those people, its a fact. Is Spielberg supposed to make it end differently for him. I know the movie was about the Holocaust but it was also about this mans life and the lives he saved.

Han : two words: Minority Report

Diego Barbagelata : i understood his point of view. And  i also enjoy Raiders of the lost ark. The main diference between kubrick or Terry gillian and Spilperg is that they devote all their cinematografy skills to the art and Spielberg is cracked between art and cinema trade. I can say without rant that I enjoy all them.

M.J. Cruz : TIL Schindler's list is a happy story lol

Vane Fal : Maybe both points of view are correct in which case it would be pointless taking sides?

King Sean : I think both Kubrick and Spielberg are very good directors and artists in their own different way. While i like the fact that Kubrick left you wondering and theorizing across certain elements of the story i also think his films lacked the soul and emotional depth that Spielberg's films create. For example like many of us know Spielberg's film A.I (Artificial Intelligence) was originally going to be directed by Kubrick, that film is heart wrenching to watch and gets you crying by the end of the story, i'm 100 % convinced it was Spielberg who gave the film that sentimental touch wich i think Kubrick would have avoided to make way to a more cold and calculating story. In the end their films have both different aspects of storytelling wich i both love, one is the brain and the other one is the heart.

pikiwiki : but 2001 was written by Arthur C Clarke

Steve Owens : God forbid we feel good when we leave a theater. If he doesn't like Spielberg he must really hate Frank Capra! Hey Terry ...jealous much?

George Atkinson : Wow, what a generalisation.