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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Schindler's List: Review

Schindler’s List is a black and white film, released on December 15, 1993 and directed by Steven Spielberg, written by Steven Zaillian and adapted from the novel written by Thomas Keneally. The movie won seven Academy awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Editing. Schindler’s List captures emotion unlike any film I have watched thus far. Though the film does sacrifice some historical accuracy for the sake of artistic expression to become a better overall story, it still maintains many truths about the events of the time, including the movement of Jews to camps, Oskar Schindler’s enamelware business and workers, and so much more. It also contains many symbols, a glorious soundtrack, and superb editing that blows its contemporaries out of the water.

I knew what I was in for when I sat down to watch this film. As soon as the opening credits rolled, I knew. When the very first scene faded in, it was so powerful and impactful. I don’t believe there is any other movie that I have seen that can capture so much emotion and feeling in the first ten seconds the way that Schindler’s List does. We are centered in a Jewish household, on Shabbat, during prayer with an array of candles being lit. The scene continually crossfades between the family gathered at the table and the house being empty, with only the candles being lit. Throughout this, the Hebrew prayer chant is being sung, while the opening credits come in one by one. The tone is instantly established, and the audience knows that this is going to be an emotional and riveting film as the candles slowly burn out and the scene fades to black.

It is after this emotional and powerful scene, that we are moved to a surroundings that are decorated with high-priced possessions, worth a fortune. We have yet to see the main character’s face, but when we are instantly moved to a nightclub in Germany, with many high-ranking German officials and workers present, it is here, we are introduced to Oskar Schindler, played by Liam Neeson. Schindler is a wealthy Nazi industrialist who loves nothing but money, and is continuously finding new ways to make it. In this introduction of Schindler it is established that he is not only a Nazi, but a greedy and powerful man. He takes pictures with everyone, shakes all their hands, flirts with all the women, and makes friends in order to persuade the right people to invest in a business. When this is set in place, he sets out to find workers, and stumbles across Itzhak Stern, A Jewish Accountant (Ben Kingsley). Throughout the film, Stern will not only keep a tally on all of Schindler’s business transactions and moves, but have an impact on Schindler himself. As the film progresses onward, we see Schindler become less and less worried about money, and more worried about the well-being of his workers.

The editing in Schindler’s List is truly sensational, and it is easy to see why it won an Oscar. Throughout the film, the audience is treated to multiple scenes with overlaid audio bits. One amazing and very touching instance of this is when Itzhak Stern types Schindler’s list on a typewriter, creating an unforgettable clicking sound of the keys that play as the shot changes, whether Schindler is buying the workers, persuading officials, or desperately trying to save his business. This, coupled with John Williams’ unforgettable theme for the movie, adds so much emotion to the scene. Though there isn’t much dialogue in this montage, the audience understands exactly what is going on, and are pulled in to the point where they express the emotion being played out, whether it be happiness or sadness. They are forced to feel emotion. It’s powerful, and it’s effective.

Symbolism is also a major component that makes this film very effective. A major and key example of symbolism in Schindler’s List is (*SPOILER*) the little girl with the red coat. This is one of the very, very few instances in which color is shown in this film. Amidst the Black and White world, this little girl who is a Jew, is walking amidst the persecution, the shooting, the killing, and eventually, she is killed. Schindler sees this as her body and coat are incinerated, and the injustice instantly clicks for him. The little girl in red represents the innocence of the Jews, while the red coat represents the blood shed on their behalf, with no savior in sight. The color red in a black and white movie is quite the obvious symbol. After the film’s release, Spielberg even addresses it. He said, "America and Russia and England all knew about the Holocaust when it was happening, and yet we did nothing about it. We didn't assign any of our forces to stopping the march toward death, the inexorable march toward death. It was a large bloodstain, primary red color on everyone's radar, but no one did anything about it. And that's why I wanted to bring the color red in.." (*SPOILER END*).

Schindler’s List is able to hold up, even by today’s standards. The black and white coloring, though it seems outdated to some folk, was intentional and was done in such a way that gave it a much more authentic feel, almost as if you were watching a documentary. The film is graphic in many aspects, including execution of men, women and children by gas chambers, incinerations, and often were stripped naked. However, Spielberg did an excellent job in not overdoing each of these aspects. They are sad yes, but they are important to the to story, and to the telling of history itself. As the famous quote reads, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

The film has won over twenty awards from various areas such as the Academy, Golden Globe, and BAFTA Awards. Especially in a time where history is trying to be forgotten and erased from our schools and textbooks, it is stories and films like Schindler’s List that will preserve the story of the Schindler Jews, and of Oskar Schindler.

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