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Emotive Aspects of Schindler's List

Info: 2741 words (11 pages) Dissertation
Published: 12th Dec 2019

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Tagged: Film StudiesHistory

Schindler’s List

The Holocaust for years has never been fully discussed or described to the outside world. There have been books and movies that have attempted to convey the atrocities aw with the feelings, but they have only been attempts to emotionally connect the audiences. Emotionally connecting whilst describing history to the audience members can be a difficult task for both books and movies, books contain elements that only reach their readers, and movies contain elements that reach only to their viewers, but to connect the readers and the viewers in the form of one book and film has happened very little in history. Merely emotionally connecting with the intended audience sells seats and popcorn but fails to accurately and factually educate. Schindler’s List has managed though to connect their viewers and readers to the evil that was taking place in Europe during WWII. In this paper I will discuss the elements in which Schindler’s List the novel as well as Schindler’s List the film use to reach their audience. As with the connection they have on the people they were based upon.

Beginning Schindler’s List should be viewed not just as a story but rather a documentary of events with a first person point of perspective on certain characters. You may be able to relate this to shows on the History Channel in which the events are described in detail, with re-enactments of certain scenes. Frankly, the theatrics generate interest from a broader range of audience, but don’t detract from the factual events and the description of the events, both tragic and heroic. Author Thomas Keneally makes this obvious as well as he tells of what Oskar Schindler accomplishes and how, the reason he had to write the novel in this direction is because everything takes place in the past; World War II has ended along with its miseries. Keneally writes the novel as a documentary, told in a “series of snapshot stories” based on recounts of witnesses and Oskar Schindler himself. Given this, the novel reads as if an ominous character is retelling the past, in which many for this reason have described the novel as fiction. The novel is very awkward in this way, as it moves from narrating events taking place to personal accounts of one person and another. Keneally does not develop several characters as a fictional novel would but includes a narrative reading like a fictional novel does. On with this Keneally uses devices that a fictional novel would use to describe and embellish a scene, “literary art blazes in the language with which the work evokes and illuminates the terrible events with which it is concerned” (Michael Hulse). For example, Keneally describes one part during the liquidation of the Jews in the Ghetto “The astounding thunder of the rifle fractured conversation and hope . . . the screams and the walling . . . [focused] . . . the heads of the corpses.” The novel, if it is to be referred to as such, contains the elements of both a fictional and non-fictional novel in order to effectively describe the acts that were taking place in Europe.

In the sense of a non-fictional novel, this story is not made up. The story of a man and his efforts to save more than 1000 Jews are real. Thomas Keneally “tells the stories of the victims, survivors, and oppressors in Schindler’s List which are all based on eyewitness accounts, historical documents, and visits to the sites described in the novel. Thus, it can be assumed that Keneally does not embellish stories or infuse characters with his own authorial imagination, making them “stand for” or represent certain ideas he is trying to communicate to his reader.”(Eric Enders). Although Thomas Keneally does in fact add his own sense of emotions to describe some of the events, but it should be expected that some kind of input is given when writing on such a sensitive topic of humanity and evil. Schindler’s List still is carefully documented as a “civil service report”, excluding the Prologue, the novel moves systematically from every hour to hour, month to month, and year to year like a timeline. Many of the characters are undeveloped and solely described as they come through the time line of events in history, though certain things are emphasized rather than merely reported like the majority of the novel. The facts are stated as in a history book, and should be taken to fact as much as one too. Though the novel is as real as it can be, again the novel still contains the elements of a fictional novel as Keneally offers certain ideas and images, in order to enhance a scene to add greater significance and have the reader become encircled by the images and not just the words. Keneally is trying to keep the novel as logical as possible but he is trying to add a greater meaning to these scenes in the novel. So the reader is to identify and fully experience the atrocities that had taken place during the war. Keneally uses various methods to have the reader think more deeply of the meaning of the novel. Keneally uses a form of image repetition to develop themes throughout the novel just as fictional writer would. The repetition of the “list” and the undermining of the “German System” while working with it create ideas of Good vs. Evil. The development of good is never fully developed to belong exclusively to Schindler as while he is acting in good intentions he continues to live as his natural self which is described as a “drunkard, womanizing, money mogul”. Although Oskar was not a Saint, he is given a bit more for the audiences. As one survivor, Mosche Bejski said “Schindler was a drunkard. Schindler was a womanizer. His relations with his wife were bad. He often had not but one but several girlfriends. Everything he did put him in jeopardy. If Schindler was a normal man, he would not have done what he did”. We understand him more as a person and his “development from a womanizing, money tycoon to in a literal sense a savior.”. The evil though is directed toward Amon Goeth, Oskar Schindler’s “dark brother”, the novel describes both men very similarly, as simple enough if one thing had changed for either of them, they could be in each other’s shoes. Keneally uses these recurring images to connect with the reader emotionally, to have them conclude the meaning of each image and the significance it had during the Holocaust and what meaning it still holds in today’s society. Thomas Keneally thus writes the novel with both forms of a fictional and non-fictional piece in mind. This is what the author uses to connect the reader not only to the events but to history’s story of evil and the inhumane world of evil that still exist today, because in all truthfulness events such as the Holocaust still continue to this day and time. Recently in Darfur: men, women, and children are being slaughtered by the Janjaweed in the name of “ethnic cleansing” just as the Germans reasoned the mass extermination of so many Jews in order of an ‘ethnic cleansing”, which in more legal terms “genocide” that exist in our present world.

In 1993 Steven Spielberg released Schindler’s List into theaters; the movie was a success earning 7 Academy Awards. The movie was such a success because it had so many viewers in sheer disbelief of the events that had taken place during World War II and the efforts of a one man to save them, as with the directing and producing style the film used. The film is filmed in black and white throughout and written to incorporate German words. The purpose of filming in black and white is to create a feeling of authenticity, possessing a more aged and emotional look as shadows just as with words can be used to express emotions as powerfully as words and actions themselves. Just like the novel the film is trying to connect with audiences emotionally through realism. Realism is what most viewers can connect to, because it is something that they themselves could have endured, parents are able to connect with the parent’s in the film and people with others by the way they act in the film and relating that to someone they know making the film that much more real. One scene in particular as the children in the camp are being sent off the parents though starved and out of energy run after the trucks; parents could relate reacting despite the fact that of being starved and injured using all of their might to protect their children. This realism of events is just one way director Spielberg is able to connect emotionally with his audience.

The reason to film the movie in black and white is critical to its meaning; the black and white gives the film a greater feeling and view of the theme of Good vs. Evil. Scenes especially including deaths, blood is even more impacting to the viewer as the dark, almost black color contrasts the winter snow and season. It is this contrast of items and characters that audiences are best to view the evil and the good. The winter seasons of pure white represent the purity and innocence of the Jewish people while their dark colored blood come to represent the evil in the world as it spreads around the pure white snow.

Along with filming the movie in black and white, Spielberg uses other devices to create certain impacts to the audience. Spielberg decision to cut out Oskar Schindler’s past creates a feeling of mystery and the wondering of his childhood. Did he have one? And was this the reason for his merciless for Jews? Did it have any affect to who he was in the beginning of the film compared to the end? Amon Goeth’s introduction halfway through the film differs in the book as he was introduced in the novel in the beginning. We begin to wonder how both Oskar and Amon ended up as they did, womanizers, power and money hungry, and alcoholics, though Amon cannot hold his liquor as Oskar can. Both men are parallels yet contradictory. Amon Goeth’s hidden/secret fascination with Jewish women can be seen in both the novel and the film. The novel opens with a dinner party being held by Amon Goeth; in this party Oskar Schindler meets Helen Hirsch a Jewish maid. We as the readers initially find it ironic that a Nazi General chooses to have a Jewish maid over other German maids. Schindler comes to say “He won’t kill you, because he enjoys you too much . . . He doesn’t want anyone to know it’s a Jew he’s enjoying” (28). In a time where Jewish prejudice was not only accepted but enforced and as Goeth’s position as General, this hidden attraction of Jewish women is even that much more bizarre as he masks the attraction by abuse towards Helen Hirsch. Amon holds more than just a physical fascination but an emotional as well. This allure Amon holds is depicted in novel and film however the film makes this more obvious in scenes. One scene in particular is significant in first spotting and truly seeing that Amon is entranced by Jewish women. The scene takes place during Oskar’s Birthday, a Jewish woman comes in giving Oskar a gift for his generosity and in return Oskar kisses the women. In the scene everyone except Amon Goeth appears shocked while Goeth is standing on his tip-toes looking at the kiss. Amon Goeth’s fascination seems to develop into a perversion as later in the film, a part which is not in the novel, Amon explains Oskar’s accidental kiss for his release and describes the Jewish women as “Gorgeous, Beautiful, and Mystical” he shortly catches himself and explains how the Jews are all deceptive and use some sort of mysticism to control them. The film included this additional scene to have the audience members immediately recognize that Amon Goeth is holding some kind of feelings for Jewish women and the irony of this to where even Amon himself realizes that this is a crime.

This fascination for women comes from he and Oskar’s relationship as doubles, and as doubles, womanizers. Just as Oskar Schindler is characterized as a womanizer, as is Amon, as both continually seek love affairs and do not commit to a relationship. Their parallelism as equal but opposites is shown by how they seduce women. Oskar Schindler is much more of a “Casanova”, “he would wine and dine women, charm them, make them feel beautiful, and irresistible” (Smith). Oskar uses much more of an irresistible charm and his self-confidence to attract women. This is where both characters are seen as polars, while both may be womanizers Oskar uses much of his charm to attract woman, Amon uses much more of a forced approach, comparable to his approach as a Nazi general. Amon Goeth is a masterful manipulator and he uses this manipulation to attract women. This extends to who Amon is, his cruelty and his sadistic personality. Amon takes much pleasure in pain and women which root his fascination with Jewish women. The pleasure he receives from women sexually and the pleasure he receives by inflicting pain on those he despises. This twisted persona is shown in entirety in one film scene in which Amon confesses his inexplicable love with his Jewish maid Helen Hirsch. “Rather than allowing himself to touch her, and nearly commit the capital crime of kissing her, he remembers he is supposed to hate her, and beats her ruthlessly for seducing him.”(Cohn). This scene lasts for nearly fifteen minutes while the novel only dedicated only 2-3 pages on this important scene in character development. This once more falls to Keneally’s documentary writing style, where many characters are not fully developed as people with deep emotions and complex thoughts. By having this very emotional yet savage scene last so long, director Steven Speilberg is forcing the audience to watch the awfulness that is becoming, keeping the audience members speechless as they watch this sick man’s love for the one’s he is supposed to hate and abuses, and the imagined relationship he has with Helen in which they are to grow old together. With Amon Goeth revealing his inhibition as a Nazi and a womanizer, his capital crime of loving a “Judenrat” is again parallel to the capital crime Oskar Schindler commits by freeing Jews and kissing a Jewish woman. Both characters are very similar, it is the manner and reasons in which they commit their crimes like the way they attract women that differ. Oskar Schindler and Amon Goeth are men addicted to “power” this is why they feel the need to seduce women and accomplish something significant, whether it be freeing a 1000 Jewish men and women or murder a 1000 Jewish men and women .Both men commit crimes as described by the German Government, Oskar’s reasons though are more for others rather than himself as Amon’s reasons are solely for himself. The similarities between the men are prevalent; the film further enforces the similarities between both men by focusing on certain scenes or by excluding or including scenes.

In the film, the majority of Oskar scenes, he is looked from High-Angle giving him vulnerability as a man, most noticeably in the scene of the liquidation of the Ghetto; the shadows underneath his eyes are even more prevalent from the black and white lens as Oskar’s vulnerability marks his transformation. Another device Spielberg uses is during the liquidation scene, is the coloring of the little girl’s red coat, her coat is shown in full Scarlett color and “this embodies the savagery of the Holocaust and the humanity of the victims as they leave this young child to watch the horror of the termination.”

Both the film and the novel use a report/documentary style to tell the story of Schindler’s List but the film holds more connection to the audience as it can be seen visually seen and viewers are given an almost personal experience to the horror of the Holocaust. The film contains powerful scenes such as the young girl and her scarlet coat and Amon Goeth’s complexities are fully shown with scenes with Helen and other Jewish women, showing his inner interest in them. Both works work to their audience in specific ways though; the novel’s elements of literary devices are used to emphasize parts that have the reader think to their imagination of what it could have been like. While the film gives the viewers a firsthand experience of what it was like.

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