Schindler’s List takes an incredibly difficult topic, at which many have tried and failed, to a level never seen before in Hollywood cinematography. Instead of the usual glitz and glamour and sugar-coating over the most horrific of tales, it faces the holocaust head on in a bold and unflinching manner, almost saying these were the horrors that went on during the war, deal with them and accept that they exist. The opening scene is in colour, with a Jewish family celebrating the Sabbath with a close up shot of the candle.
The candle begins in colour but in a few short seconds the candle turn into black and white as the candle begins to go out, the smoke merges into train steam, which symbolises the descent into the darkness of the holocaust. This is a very powerful message, which is shown by the colour at the beginning and the end of the film, it indicates the fact that an evil and distressing time is upon those who are Jewish. Yet on the flip side of this Oskar Schindler shows that one person can make a difference and that someone with a great heart can bring light to a small desperate minority.
However Oskar Schindler was a womanising war profiteer and a man who was part of and fraternised with members of the Nazi-party but with all the things that were against him he still managed to slowly become a hero that was at the time never recognised. Throughout this time he was thought of as a criminal. In the scene where Goeth orders the liquidation of the Ghetto, the first thing you see is a close up of a man who is very loud and very aggressive. This theme continues whenever you are in the Ghetto.
When you move to a high-angle shot in which Schindler and his mistress are horse riding, there is very little sound, which creates an air of disbelief. One of the next scenes about a quarter way through the film is of an army officer yelling at Stern for his work card, which he cannot find. This creates suspense because Stern has lost his card before, and we are made to believe that he might have lost it again. Directly after this, we see a German soldier shoot a scared child, which shows the Germans constant unnecessary killing of children.
In the hospital, all the patients are given a poison by the doctors (in extreme close-up) so the terminally ill would not suffer. All doctors, patients and nurses are dressed in white, which is a symbol of innocence. When the Germans come in, they are all in dark uniform and shoot the patients lying in bed without even seeing if they are alive. This shows the innocence of the Jews (white) and the blood and death that became them (black). While the separation is going on, you have many medium shots but because so many people are in such a small place you have ten or more in the shot.
With the constant and recurring noise “Women to the left, men to the right”, the desperate screaming of despair from the Jews, added to the great amount of hand-held camera movement, it shows the loss of control the Jews had over their lives. The scene in the sewers shows the man trying to escape the Germans only to find that the Germans have anticipated every circumstance. There is light at the end of the tunnel he is running down and these black figures come round the corner and shoot everyone but him before they can reach the light.
This symbolises now that whatever the Jews tried in order to survive or to live better, the Germans would always “cut the light from the end of the tunnel”. One of the most powerful scenes of the entire film is where you see the young girl in the red dress. The scene begins with Schindler looking down on the liquidation of the Ghetto and through it all he sees this 5-7 year old girl walking down the street. As she comes more into focus, you begin to hear a child’s bedtime song; this is to create pathos for a girl who has no idea about what’s going on.
This girl has Aryan features – blonde hair and although you cannot see her eye colour, these should be blue – NO star or armband. As she walked it was against the flow of people, at first she walked round people being shot in the street then, as she turns the corner, she is caught in with the Jewish people and the lines they were going to as children often do when they are scared. She left the line and went to hide under a bed, which many of us did when we were children.
As she goes up the stairs to go to the bed her coat is red until she gets under the bed where her coat turns grey and she, like so many others, becomes a victim and loses her colour in her coat coupled with the distinction between her life and her impending death. Her red coat symbolises the bloodshed of millions of children and the fact she didn’t have a yellow star showed how there was indiscriminate killing of children for no reason at all. During the three “love scenes” we see many different types of relationships between men and women. At the beginning, we see a Jewish wedding, which symbolises love.
We then see Goeth, a man, lusting over a woman he can’t have which makes her hate him. Then we see the womanising Oskar Schindler kissing a singer. In the next “bulk” of scenes, we begin with Goeth coming down the stairs to the cellar to see Helen who is dressed in a white nightgown. She looks very attractive yet she is very wet and shivering in the cold, which also shows how vulnerable Helen is to Goeth’s choices – this makes him extremely powerful; the choices that he makes will have a repercussion on Helen’s life or her death. Helen has very little power when it comes to the relationship between herself and Goeth.