Steven Spielberg’s main purpose in the film Schindler’s List is to show the eternal moral dilemma: how an individual responds to power and temptation. This is achieved through the two characters, Oskar Schindler and Amon Goeth, how each character responds to power and temptation and the parallels between the two characters. Amon Goeth, the films central representation of evil, is depicted as not just a monster but a complex man beset by indecision and even temptation to do good as shown in the ‘forgiveness’ sequence where he attempts to “pardon” himself and others. Goeth makes this attempt at goodness after Schindler states, “power is when we have every justification to kill and we don’t.” But Goeth always denies his humanity and falls back on the side of evil. This complex portrayal of such a monster is shocking but shows that individuals respond differently to power.
The film starts off showing many parallels between these two main characters, Amon Goeth and Oskar Schindler. It is shown through many cross-cutting scenes that both men are charismatic, Nazis, in places of power and both have a fine sense of style. The viewer is made to feel these two men are very similar, that both have the potential for good and bad. But it is scenes such as the basement scenes where Schindler and Amon find themselves in almost identical situations that we are able to see how the different choices each one has made is effecting him. Where Schindler embraces the Jew, Helen Hirsch, by giving her a “kiss of pity” Goeth denies his humanity and beats her. Goeth makes excuses for his human feelings towards Helen Hirsch stating “they cast a spell on you, you know the Jews.” Where Schindler embraces his human feelings, Goeth denies them, denies them, discarding them as a weakness.
We are shown the extent at which moments in the film have changed each character when Schindler, previously money driven, gives up his fortune to save Jews where Goeth decides the fate of Helen Hirsch...
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