It is difficult to imagine a film more heavily praised than Steven Spielberg's adaptation of "Schindler's List," about a German businessman and Nazi Party member who, through his ownership of a metals factory using slave labor, saved more than 1,000 Jews from death at Auschwitz. The Academy Award-winning movie's ads contain vast lists of critics saluting it not only as the best picture of the year, but one of the greatest of all time. One critic for a major weekly maintains that it contains some of the most touching moments since the cinema's silent era. That the film is successful in conveying the horrors of the Holocaust in as reasonable and tactful a manner as can be expected of Hollywood is undeniable. What is bewildering, however, is how little resistance, how little criticism of any kind, the film has received, especially from scholars with vast, even firsthand knowledge of the Holocaust. Various writers, including Nobel Prize winner and concentration camp survivor Elie Weisel, have insisted that the Holocaust can not and should not be represented in dramatic narrative. The egregious 1970s TV miniseries "Holocaust" was attacked precisely for its hubris in so doing, rather than for the inherent awfulness in its conception of the Nazi genocide. Yet, "Schindler's List" is very much Hollywood fare, dramatic storytelling that, while based on fact, cares nothing for the lessons taught by films such as Alain Renais' "Night and Fog" or, more importantly, "Shoah" - works suggesting that the absence of horrific spectacle may be the prime aesthetic guide in representing what is almost beyond comprehension. Spielberg, whose career has been about nothing if not spectacle, takes viewers not only into the cattle cars and Auschwitz, but into the gas chambers. While it is true that some of the Auschwitz showers actually gave people baths, the fact that Spielberg's victims survive seems of a piece with the cotton-candy view of the world he consistently has demonstrated, most recently in "Jurassic Park," a film about a dinosaur amusement park gone amok. Even more, the overbearing tearjerker ending (redeemed only by the final documentary moment at the tomb of the real Oskar Schindler) has no relationship either to the historical facts or Thomas Keneally's rendering in his 1981 novel. What is most disturbing about "Schindler's List," protestations from Spielberg partisans notwithstanding, is its dependence on Hollywood genre conventions. While critics have insisted that Spielberg keeps intact the protagonist's inscrutable personality in Liam Neeson's performance, this Schindler is a very recognizable movie hero - a gallant, high-minded mercenary, a la Rhett Butler. Indeed, the emphasis on his wardrobe and philandering does less to make the character closer to his real-life counterpart than to his cinematic antecedents. Like all movie heroes, Schindler transcends the fray. One might call the film "Schindler and the Seven Dwarfs," such is the relationship of the hero to the supporting characters - that is, the Jews of Europe. The movie's Jews are picaresque, homely, but wholly sympathetic; helpless lost sheep in need of the handsome Gentile savior (who towers over them in numerous low-angle shots). While in the prolonged, lachrymose ending, Schindler reminds his former laborers that they are the heroes, since they have done all the surviving, viewers have just seen three hours of evidence to the contrary. The film is about Schindler's genius, Schindler's survival instincts, and Schindler's centrality to all events. Like Vietnam War movies that have nothing to say about the Vietnamese, this is a Holocaust narrative where Jews, for all the scenes of ghetto liquidation, degradation, and execution, are rather marginal, even as Spielberg tries to maintain the identities of individual survivors throughout the film. Perhaps more troubling than Spielberg's sense of the Holocaust's heroes is his concept of its villains. As S.S. labor camp overseer Amon Goeth, Ralph Fiennes is as malevolent a figure as ever wore a high-collar tunic. Fiennes is like a young Brando laughing at all the squint-eyed Huns played by Conrad Veidt and Erich von Stroheim. This is where Hollywood has failed audiences, especially younger viewers, in conveying the essential truths (and essential evils) of the Nazi barbarism. Certainly, sociopathic hoodlums like Goeth existed at all levels of the Nazi state apparatus, but this very fact should offer questions to the audience since the Nazis were not created in Frankenstein's lab, nor were they all products of dysfunctional families. What "Schindler's List," like most Holocaust narratives, fails to convey is that the Nazis were frighteningly normal. The Nazi state was created not by psychopaths and drug addicts, but by lawyers, corporate executives, businessmen, professors, even clergymen. What also is not expressed in "Schindler's List" is the cold fact that the interests of U.S. and British finance capital have been interlocked with German cartel capital before, during, and after Nazism. Various scholars have documented U.S. collaboration with the Nazi state during and after World War II. Most chilling is the construction of "rat lines" following the war that allowed former S.S. and intelligence officers to escape to the West at the dawn of the Cold War. Spielberg's simplistic view of heroes and villains, his unproblematical approach to a topic that reveals a profound horror by seeing its complexity, is at the root of the film's error. The savagery of Nazism isn't to be located in the whims of a deranged brute, but in assumptions nascent within our entire civilization. Nazism was a manifestation of a political, economic, and philosophical world view that still is implicated deeply in our basic institutions. It is precisely the type of phenomenon that Hollywood is ill-equipped and uninterested in representing.