I have not re-watched Schindler’s List in years, and I cannot over-emphasize how much I was moved by re-watching it just now. For the most part, I am a hyper person who rarely sits still long enough to watch a movie from beginning to end. That was not the case, as I watched Schindler’s List tonight. By the time that I was ten minutes into the movie, I had put away all of my other projects, and I hardly moved until the film ended. Quite honestly, I was surprised at how much better this movie is than I remembered it. Schindler’s List is a brilliant achievement.
There are plot spoilers in the following:
Earlier today, I wrote about the 2006 Oscar movie The Departed. I wrote about how it was a movie of contrasts. I did not realize it until tonight, but Schindler’s List is, too. There is an obvious contrast between Oskar Schindler and the sadistic Amon Goeth, who is masterfully played by Ralph Fiennes. In one scene, Schindler is shaving and in the next scene, Goeth is shaving. The juxtaposition of images is superbly done.
Another great juxtaposition of images has to do with the Jew who tried to escape by hiding inside a piano. The scene becomes brutal; yet, it is accompanied by a Nazi who begins to play a rollicking song on the same piano.
Early in the movie, groups of impoverished Jews report for registration. In the next scene, Schindler is shown picking out which silk tie to wear and which cufflinks to adorn his shirt, and then he stuffs wads of cash into his pockets. Later in the movie, one of the wealthy Jewish women is led to her new accomodations in the Ghetto, and she utters, “It could be worse.” Schindler wanders into the fine home that the lady was forced to leave. He makes himself at home on her bed and says, “It could not be better.”
I appreciate that Schindler is not portrayed as a saint all throughout the movie. Early in the movie, he is depicted as almost vulgar, scheming, and greedy. Yet, as the movie develops, we see the man in a different light. This same type of ambiguity of character is also part of the movie The Departed. Both of the movies are outstanding, and probably part of the reason is that things are not cut and dry. The plots are not wrapped in pretty bows and everything is not clearly defined for the viewer. Rather, the viewer is invited to do some thinking and interpreting for himself.
Liam Neessen did not win an Oscar for his performance in Schindler’s List. I admit that I am partial to Neessen, but I thought that he did a great job.
After I watched the movie, I did some research on Oskar Schindler, and apparently, no one is quite sure why he saved the people that he did. One possible explanation was that he had gotten to know the people that he saved and that they became human to him. In my opinion, Spielberg does a good job of showing how Schindler did become involved with a select group of Jewish people. We follow those people to the very end of the movie.
On the other hand, we merely witness a precious little girl in a red dress, as she moves through the scene when the Jews in Krakow were eliminated. We do not know who the little girl is, and Schindler does not know her either; yet, because of the masterful way that she is presented, we care deeply about her. Schindler’s seeing of this little girl is a turning point in the movie. It is the point at which Schindler seems to begin to care. I often write about seeing, as opposed to mere looking. Speilberg’s presentation of the little girl, with only a hint of red, directs our attentions to her. We “see” her, and we symbolically see the savagery of the entire Holocaust–even for those that we otherwise do not know.
The girl in the red dress appears twice in the movie. We share Schindler’s concern as he first spots the girl in the red dress, and we also share his pain, when we see the girl carted away, like soiled rubbish. Both scenes with the girl in the red dress are inspired–absolutely stunning.
Normally, I would hate that the movie was filmed in black and white, but for Schindler’s List, the choice of black and white was perfect. To begin with, the black and white filming was superb. Secondly, the black and white film heightened the impact of the scenes with the girl in the red dress. At the beginning of the movie, the prayer scene is in color, but as the candle burns, the black and white of the filming evolves. Along the way, there is a hint of red. With that, the girl in the red dress is foreshadowed.
Without reservation, I applaud the Oscar committee’s having honored Schindler’s List with not one, but seven Oscars. That movie truly could not have been better.
©Jacki Kellum February 11, 2016