The Holocaust is one of the most horrific events in human history, between 1939 and 1945, Nazis systematically murdered more than six million Jews in Germany and neighboring countries, wiping out nearly two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population. Film is a powerful storytelling tool, and Steven Spielberg recreates the terrors of the Holocaust is the critically acclaimed film, ‘Schindler’s List.’ It is difficult to recreate the scale of suffering and death that happened during the actual event, but the film represents a stellar performance by all those involved to provide audiences with a most realistic view of what happened. Spielberg uses color and different camera angles to highlight specific themes and ideas in the film.
Oskar Schindler is the main protagonist in the film. He is a German businessman interested in setting up a factory in Krakow. He bribes the Nazi soldiers to allow him to set up an enamelware factory, and keep his workers in their jobs even when most Jews were being shipped off to concentration camps. Schindler employs the services of an accountant named Itzhak Stern, who helps him get investors for his business. Schindler and Stern run a successful operation, with Jews working in the factory due to their lower labor costs. Schindler bribes the German armed forces by telling them that his factory supports the German war effort, and his workers remain working. However, as the war continues, the Germans lose their ground, and Second Lieutenant Amon Goth is instructed to transfer all the Jews to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Wanting to save as many lives as possible, Schindler offers Goth a huge bribe to keep his workers and relocate his factory to Brunnlitz (Tabraiz 12). Schindler witnesses the brutal clearing of the Jews from the ghetto, which leaves many of them dead. This violence and death affect him profoundly, and he tries to save as many Jews as he can. Schindler spends all his wealth on bribes to German officials and runs out of money by 1945. This coincided with Germany’s surrender having lost the war, and Schindler is to be captured as a war profiteer and Nazi. Before feeling, he bribes the German officials not to kill his workers, and the grateful Jews give him a signed letter attesting to the fact that he saved many Jewish lives.
One of the most remarkable features of Schindler’s List is its lack of color. Only very few scenes in the movie were shot in color, and this was intentional on the part of the film director. The Holocaust ended in the year 1945, and recreating events form that time would prove to be very challenging. Spielberg decided to use black and white to make the film more realistic and achieved his goal perfectly. Most of the scenes were shot on location in Poland, where the actual events happened. Although the Holocaust happened more than seventy years ago, viewers watching Schindler’s List feel like they are transported back in time to the time of the real events in the movie. This feeling allows audiences to immerse themselves in the events of the Holocaust and sympathize with all the people who suffered and died (Tabraiz 15). The lack of color also shows the draining of life during the film. Millions of people died during the Holocaust. Color is a sign of life and happiness, both of which were destroyed during the Holocaust. The black and white nature of the film captures the bleak mood of the film.
Another notable feature of the film is its use of color in specific scenes. One of the scenes with color in ‘Schindler’s List’ is the opening scene. Here, audiences see a Jewish family in prayer. The lit candles symbolize light, faith, and hope as the family engages in the religious ritual. At this time, the Jews are still free to practice their religion. However, as the scene progresses, the candles burn out, and the color disappears with the flame. The draining of color from the scene is a sign of hopelessness and death that is to come as a train transporting Jews to concentration camps appears. The girl in a red coat is one of the highlights of the film that emphasizes the use of color (Ott & Burgchardt 25). One day while riding a horse, Schindler witnesses the inhumane eviction of Jews from their homes. One person stands out from the crowd, a little girl in a red coat roaming the streets. Schindler follows her movements as she goes into a house and hides under the bed. Schindler later sees the same girl in a pile of dead bodies. The red coat is a symbol of bloodshed and the death of innocent Jews. Another prominent technique is that the film is the use of camera angles to convey certain ideas. In the opening scene, the camera pans to the fading candle of the flame in a close-up shot. The smoke from the candle then turns into smoke billowing from a train (Goodman 276). This symbolizes the transition from peace to war and death.
In conclusion, Spielberg does a stellar job of telling the story of the Holocaust to audiences in later times. The film reminds people of the truly ghastly acts that human beings can be capable of, and how the actions of one man saved many. Schindler sacrificed all his wealth to save his workers, and this leaves people to wonder how many more lives would have been saved if others like Schindler, stood up to be counted. Schindler’s List is a powerful and unforgettable reminder of human cruelty, but also human kindness. Works Cited
Goodman, Nancy R. “Opening the Mind to Trauma Through Oscillations of Focus: Learning From the Film Schindler’s List: Nancy R. Goodman.” The Power of Witnessing. Routledge, 2012. 273-279.
Ott, Brian L., and Carl R. Burgchardt. “On critical-rhetorical pedagogy: Dialoging with Schindler’s List.” Western Journal of Communication 77.1 (2013): 14-33.
Tabraiz, Anas. “The holocaust as film and literature in Schindler’s List.” Creative Forum. Vol. 21. No. 1-2. Bahri Publications, 2008.