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Schindlers List (1993) by Steven Spielberg took to the screen to tell a tragic yet very real series of events that had gone untold since the tragic events of the Holocaust. With every frame, Spielberg demonstrates the power of the film maker to create a movie that tells a story respectfully, but in all brutal honesty. The film depicts so many different messages to the audience, but the reality that one man can make a difference is the hardest hitting.
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Schindlers List was nominated for twelve Academy Awards and won seven of them, and out of respect for the people that had lost their lives in Auschwitz; Spielberg did not film inside the camp. (Winston, 2016). The use of black and white, added elements of colour, offscreen killing and audio only ground the film more and add to its success. The point of the film is not to enjoy watching a movie with friends, it is supposed to jerk emotions and these elements bring you back to reality; that this story is real and horrifying.
Almost all the film is presented in black and white and by using this technique Spielberg gives the audience a more vivid sense of being in the same era as World War II in which the movie is set. Because the colour is drained, so too is the feeling of happiness or freedom, as absence of colour compared to abundance of colour can very easily represent depressing settings compared to cheerful settings. The scene in which Jewish working women are telling “bedtime stories” on the way other Jews were treated really captures the use of black and white and how dark it makes the scene. The women tells the others in the cabin that people were lined up and forced into a bunker to “shower” but were gassed instead, which is the truth but at this time none of them believe it, and the use of black and white in such a scene shows that there is no hope, no life or colour despite the women not wanting to believe this women is telling the truth. They start to justify how this had to be rumour, and this shows them clinging to false hope in a black and white scene.
One of the techniques that the film is famous for is it’s use of colour in an all-black and white setting. The film begins in colour, and this colour serves as hope. The candle being lit for the Sabbath shows a time where Jewish tradition was upheld, but the smoke from the candle quickly fades into train smoke – again in black and white to show hope fading away like smoke. The colour represents a time in which Nazism had not yet sucked the life & colour from the world. Beginning this movie with a Jewish tradition reinforces that this film is about the story of the Jewish people, not the Nazi’s. The effective use of colour in this scene allows us to set a scene for the time before the Nazi party took over, when there was colour, hope and tradition for the Jewish people. A filming technique that is commonly used by Spielberg is offscreen killings or assumptive killings. Although the movie has its fair share of bloodshed, there are certain moments where the actual execution of the Jews is done off screen and left to the imagination.
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During the scene at Auschwitz where a female Schindler Jew views another group of Jews being led down into an underground room. Instead of showing us what goes on in there, the camera tilts upward showing a large smoking chimney, which leaves the audience to imagine that the Jews are being burned alive. This is a technique mirrored by Spielberg in such films as Jurassic Park and Jaws, where the killings are also moved offscreen. Since the audience didn’t view what happened, they are left to their own imagination which allows them to reflect on the reality which is why this filming technique works so well. Another example of this technique is when the ashes fall from the sky, and although the children are oblivious to it, some of the older and wiser people realise where it has come from, as do the audience and again you are left to reflect on what you believe is happening. This allows the audience to play into their imagination using the information gathered so far, which can be more confronting than viewing the murders on screen. The use of audio in the film is used effectively to help the audience relate in a sense to the Jewish and alienate the Germans; this is done not only through music but through language. In the scene where hundreds of Jewish bodies are being burned in a large fire, there is a sombre choir track used which elevates the presence of evil. The slow music only allows you to concentrate on the confronting scene more. One audio aspect of the film is designed on the basis that most of the audience watching will be of English speaking background, so that when they hear the German soldiers speaking in German, they probably won’t understand what they are saying, which alienates the already sourly portrayed Nazis and puts the audience in the position of the Jews, who speak English. It is a common belief that humans fear worst what they don’t understand, and the Jews are constantly subjected to vicious yelling in a language they don’t understand whilst being ordered around. This makes both them and the audience wonder where they’re going to be taken and creates the fear of what horrors may come rather than what horrors are already present. This is effective in allowing us to relate to a certain part of the movie, and when you can relate to the confusion and fear you are able to gather how the Jewish must be feeling.
The film Schindlers List is not one for enjoyment or entertainment but for knowledge, in which Spielberg creates several angles to look at the horrors of war. Not only did Spielberg tell a story that deserved to be told, but he created a creative masterpiece while honouring those who had past, and allows generation of the future to view the story of one man’s bravery, and that by saving the lives that Schindler did, he saved the world (Gallagher, C. 2001)
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