Schindler’s List Movie Review
In Schindler’s List, director Steven Spielberg artfully tells the story of Oskar Schindler and his noble attempt to save German Jews from the clutches of the Nazis. Narrowing his focus to the actions of one man and the consequences of these actions, Spielberg chronicles the story of Schindler’s gradual progression from a self-serving businessman to a selfless saint who spends literally his entire fortune in a desperate attempt to liberate Jews from an oppressive and unjust system of torture and death. Over the course of the movie, Spielberg subtly develops the theme that even a small action of goodness can have an immense impact. Overall, Schindler’s List masterfully weaves a touching tale of man’s goodness in times of evil; however, it is not a full and accurate account of the Holocaust, and when taken out of context, it risks being misinterpreted as such.
One of the main methods that Spielberg uses to convey his point the viewer is emotional appeal. Throughout the movie, he uses various filming techniques to create meaningful relationships between the viewer and certain characters, only to have them die later on in the movie. In making the film, one of Spielberg’s aims is to expose the atrocities of the Holocaust, and by making the viewer emotionally invested in characters that are destined to die, he creates an emotionally hard-hitting piece that causes the viewer to become truly aware of exactly how evil the Holocaust was. One explicit example of this is Goeth’s seemingly sympathetic pardon of one of his workers, which is immediately followed by the worker’s death. The sudden and unexpected death causes the viewer to feel pain for the character, signifying the emotions that Spielberg is so artfully able to evoke. Perhaps the most important emotional connection that is created in the film is that between the viewer and Oskar Schindler. In the final scene, the viewer witnesses Schindler’s breakdown and the feelings of regret and despair that he suddenly feels upon realizing how many people have died because of a party that he once supported. This scene marks the culmination in a change in Schindler’s character, from a selfish businessman to a selfless savior, which the viewer has, by the end, become a part of. Another filming method that Spielberg uses to convey the hysteria that occurred in Nazi Germany during the time that the movie takes place is the juxtaposition of evil actions with a light or happy background. One example of this is the “Liquidation of the Ghettos” scene; while the SS officers are brutally killing all of the Jews who hid in the ghettos, another officer sits playing an upbeat piano piece while two other officers stand, trying to guess what piece it is, as though killing all the people in the building is just another piece of business. This is an example of Spielberg’s emphasis on the ‘banality of evil’, which is a key motif throughout the film; many times, the SS officers just kill without thinking, as though it is just part of their job. However, one of the film’s downfalls is that it does not encompass all aspects of the Holocaust; although it does well in exposing the extreme evils of the tragedy that occurred, it is far from a documentary. Unfortunately, as a blockbuster Hollywood film, it risks being interpreted by viewers less acquainted with the Holocaust as one.
Overall, Schindler’s List is an excellent film with just as excellent of a meaning. It succeeds spectacularly in its purpose; to expose to viewers the terrible results of the Holocaust and to reveal one man’s actions of goodness and how positively they affected others. However, the fact that the film is so widely known and viewed lends to the possibility that it will be many people’s first exposure to the Holocaust, and because it is not a full documentary of what exactly happened during that dark period of history, it risks giving viewers an inaccurate representation of history.