Schindlers List Essay

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‘Schindler’s List’ is no less a “Jewish story” or a “German story” than it is a human story. And its subject matter applies to every generation.’ [Stephen Spielberg] Discuss.

The film ‘Schindler’s List’, directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the novel Schindler’s Ark, by Thomas Keneally, gives us an insight into the corruption and destructive capabilities of humans. This film portrays many themes, all of which are evoked due to the factual historical event of the Jewish Holocaust which occurred in Germany during WWII. The exploration of the themes of hope, use and misuse of power, the nature of evil and courage makes this film prominent over others. Spielberg’s purpose in making this film was to raise awareness of the horror experienced by the victims during this era and to inspire todays and future generations to understand the impact of, and end, such prejudice. As such, we are presented a human story, the subject matter of which applies to every generation.

The film focuses on the Holocaust, an era when millions of Jews and others were murdered for their ethnicity and religious beliefs – an era which many wish to forget. Although one of the darkest periods in human history, many people of all ages know little, if anything about it. Spielberg’s film enables an understanding to develop in the viewer and thus, encourage respect for the Jewish people in light of the brutal facts. As the film opens, Oskar Schindler is portrayed as an ordinary German businessman with one thing on his mind – money. The film opens showing a man dressing with impeccable style, his face unknown. The Swastika lapel pin identifies him as a member of the Nazi party; a significant symbol throughout the film. The technique of keeping the man’s identity a mystery suggests that to begin with he is a ‘no one’; however, as future events take place, his name and actions become a significant imprint in history. Initially Schindler sees the Jewish people as any other German would – slave labour, a way for him to make easy money. His ability to connect with the Jews seems to be lacking, yet the first flicker of a bond is shown when he saves his accountant, Itzhak Stern from Auschwitz. Up until the liquidation of the Ghettos, Schindler was oblivious to the reality of the war. He was only focused on himself and his own well being, rather than looking at the bigger picture. During this incident, Schindler’s attention is directed to a young girl in a red coat. This isolated element of colour is surrounded by a sea of black and white, representing the innocence of the Jews being slaughtered. The instant Schindler sights the child it marks the moment when he is forced to confront the horror of Jewish life during the Holocaust and his own hand in it. We witness the beginning of Schindler’s redemption and Spielberg’s exploration of the universal theme of loss of innocence in the face of the abuse of power, and the courage of those who stand against such negative forces.

As the film progresses, Schindler’s attitude begins to change, along with his view about life. The contrast of black and white allows the director to deepen the impact of the story. This contrast marks Schindler’s face, which is often half in shadow, reflecting his selfish, dark side. However, his face becomes more lit as he makes the transformation from war profiteer to saviour. Although Schindler initially made small attempts to save the Jews, he didn’t have the true motivation to put his heart and soul into becoming a saviour. However, later in the film, as Schindler sees the body of the little girl in the red coat being exhumed and wheeled into the fire under the direction of Nazi officers, he decides to save as many Jews as he can with his profits from the war – the death of the young child was the death of innocence and Schindler’s hope. Stern, with Schindler’s assistance, types a list of 1,100 Jewish workers known as, “Schindler’s List”. “The list ... is an absolute...
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