“Memory is all we have, and when the memories are dreadful- when they hold images of the pain we have suffered or, perhaps inflicted- they are what we are try to escape” (Corliss 110). Steven Spielberg captures the audience in this critically acclaimed movie about the Holocaust. Schindlers List is a movie made to induce the mind into the unknown, the horrors of World War II. David Ansen states “Schindlers List plunges us into the nightmare of the Holocaust with newsreel-like urgency- and amazing restraint” (Newsweek 113). Spielberg brings out all emotions in recapturing this monstrous time period.
Schindlers List is about Oskar Schindler, a German Nazi who uses the Jews to make money off the war. At the beginning of the movie Schindler is portrayed as a womanizer, gambler, and heavy drinker. He becomes friends with some top Nazi officials to better himself. As the movie progresses Schindler begins to produce war materials using the Jews as a labor force. As he sits back and watches the various actions of the Nazis he begins to question his morals. His accountant, Itzhak Stern, begins making a list of around 1200 Jews. These Jews were to come and work in Schindlers’ factory. When Germany surrendered all of the Nazis were to be hunted. Many Jews thanked him and all of the workers wrote a letter explaining Schindlers’ actions. Also, a gold ring was given to him inscribed, “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire” (Talmud). Schindler said good-bye to his workers and fled. Only now the Jews are liberated to have nowhere to go and nowhere to leave. Many great directors concentrate on dialogue, scenery, and plat; however, Spielberg stresses the importance of camera angles and the effect of black and white film, scenes and characters, on viewers in Schindlers List.
With his outstanding work on camera angles, Steven Spielberg holds the audience at breath while waiting for the next scene. Spielberg uses a hand held camera to grasp the effects. David Denby explains how the use of a handheld camera is much more accurate. “The camera keeps moving [ ] moving fast, chasing corners and up stairways [ ].” Spielberg makes the movie look “like and advertent look of newsreel footage” (1282). Life magazine quoted Spielberg discussing the image of Amon Goeth sunbathing. A man named Raymond Titsch took pictures inside the Holocaust gates. When he died Spielberg got a hold of those pictures and disclaims remark about the photographs and courage. “He looked as if he was at Club Med [ ] the photographers shadow on his gut [ ] the courage the shadow represented” (”Schindler’s 9). Clearly Spielberg was moved by these images; it took courage to face up to the reality of the Holocaust. During the movie the camera angles are not hard to catch on to. Throughout it the camera is basically focusing eye level. Spielberg is emphasizing reality, not fiction, by having the viewer seeing everything to the eye level. Spielberg keeps his scenes at this level because he is reminding viewers of the popular opinion of this time- there is no God. God is looking down upon the horror, and does nothing about it. Therefore many now believe he does not exist. Philip Strick introduces a new approach to Spielberg’s’ actions. He believes Spielberg discards his “classy crane-shots” to get the crowd to mix in. “[ ] panic inducing proximity or tries to provide vistas where so much is happening, so many details of independent action almost unobserved [ ] unable to imagine the logistics of it’s fakery” (1291-92). Spielberg also comments about how hard the film was to make. In an interview with Spielberg Ansen writes that Spielberg was directing a scene and could not watch it himself. He said to the man “‘Do you think you got that?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know, I wasn’t looking.’” Spielberg takes this reaction as a compliment, “when the focusing man doesn’t look you know it’s interesting” (Film 1290). According to Ansen Spielberg had is own idea of making his style. “[ ] I threw half my toolbox away, I canceled the crane. I tore out the dolly track. I didn’t really plan a style. I didn’t say I’m going to use a handheld camera. I simply tried to pull the events closer to the audience by reducing the artifice” (Newsweek 1). Although Spielberg’s’ imagination helped him to recreate the “footage” of the Holocaust, his imagination helped him even more once he decided to do the movie without color.
Spielberg’s assumption was right. There was no need for color; the audience could not handle the movie if it had been in color. Since the movie is in black and white the viewer often looks closer to pick up any missed images. Therefore a deeper meaning behind Schindlers List arises. Spielberg uses a little girl dressed in red to emphasize how no one was spared. The color red symbolizes life, and hope. This hope is shattered when viewers see the little girl again, dead. A German writer, Geoff Eley, comments “Spielberg moves us through the major stations of the Holocaust–dispossession, the curse of the Poles [ ], the walking into the ghetto [ ], selections, terror and humiliation on the streets (black blood on white snow)[ ] but still partially negotiable normality, before the sledgehammer of terror is applied” (7). The movie opens up in color with a Jewish family lighting the Sabbath candles. Then later on at the end the candles reappear indicating Jewish survival (4). “[ ] shifted us into a different space, accomplished above all by the move from the color of the candle’s flame to the black-and-whiteness of the historical reconstruction, [ ] its single most important striking feature.” Black and white films produce a complex emotion (3). Truth is one of the main thoughts running through Spielberg’s mind when he is filming this movie. The black and white film is to represent a German documentary, although it brings out the most vivacious visions. Many writers keep going back to the point about the little girl dressed in red. Why is she discreetly put into the films poster? Why is she the only one in color? Why does she stick out in the mind? “Because it makes an immediate, irreducible point-red is also the colour of death; this innocent of innocents is both Red Riding Hood and sacrificial lamb.” This image is so breathtaking because it allows the viewers not to see, or rather focus on this one image (1282). Spielberg says, “we’re not making a film, we’re making a document.” The colors of black and white are as true as any other color to Spielberg. “‘These are the colors of reality,’ says Spielberg” (Schickel 1293). According to Philip Strick Spielberg does make a mistake in bringing the color in so quickly at the end. Strick praises Janusz Kaminski’s work with the color. “[ ] rich, tonal compositions among the cruel grey winters and savagely bleached summers of an appalling history.” Strick also criticizes Spielberg for using the red coat on the girl. He believes it was unnecessary to have her so immortalized; she could have just been a walk by. The coat was too noticeable, and Stick says ” a scarf or hairstyle” would have been just as appropriate (1292). So why does Spielberg use the black and white footage? To many it recreates history as it was seen. “No, the black-and-white photography is never a drawback, and in fact provides the picture with an immediacy and authencity that sets it apart [ ]” (Medved 1285). Black and white film has a vague affect on the audience.
“In one way, it distances: it marks this particular past as different, as elsewhere, as ‘another country.’ But in another way, it reduces distance, our images of the Holocaust are constructed in black and white, whether from newsreel or photographs, and the film resonates with this existing archive of representation; it places us immediately into that place of memory. By contrast again, our contemporary representational landscape is made from color, and the promiscuous mobility of historical imagery and citation within a postmodern economy of signs has made Nazism no less appropriable for stylistic and entertainment purposes than any other feature of the past. The choice of black and white us breaks out of this indiscriminacy. It takes the Holocaust back from the television miniseries, so to speak, and in that sense defamiliarizes it, makes it strange” (Eley 3).
Spielberg has mastered the art of black and white photography. In this movie he has shown many scenes that were incredibly realistic by use of shadows. When the liquidation of the ghetto takes place, all the viewer knows is that there is mass murdering going on. By looking on the walls at the shadows, the sights seen are atrocious. These shadows came from the black and white color of the film.
So what caused the Holocaust? Many agree the main factor was indifference. “Schindler’s List is about the triumph of the human spirit over sadism and degradation, indifference and silence” (Rader 6). Oskar Schindler saved 1200 Jews. Today more than 6000 Jews are descendants of the Schindler Jews. Spielberg ends the movie with the Schindler Jews placing stones on Schindler’s grave. The movie is now in color to remind the audience that there is still mourning going on for the Holocaust victims. Someone who was dedicated to recreating an awful historical event could only do this movie. Steven Spielberg, a Jew himself, never believed he could make it through the movie.
He too believed that the black and white made the movie easier to bear with, and gave it a more realistic viewpoint. “The movie ends with the final message “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.” This message is true. Spielberg has constructed this movie as an educational film, so that it may never happen again.