The businessman with one thing on his mind

The
exploration of the themes of hope, use and misuse of power, the nature of evil
and courage makes this film prominent over others. Spielberg’s purpose in
making this film was to raise awareness of the horror experienced by the
victims during this era and to inspire todays and future generations to
understand the impact of, and end, such prejudice. As such, we are presented a
human story, the subject matter of which applies to every generation. The film
focuses on the Holocaust, an era when millions of Jews and others were murdered
for their ethnicity and religious beliefs an era which many wish to forget.

Although one of the darkest periods in human history, many people of all ages
know little, if anything about it. Spielberg’s film enables an understanding to
develop in the viewer and thus, encourage respect for the Jewish people in
light of the brutal facts. As the film opens, Oskar Schindler is portrayed as
an ordinary German businessman with one thing on his mind – money. The film
opens showing a man dressing with impeccable style, his face unknown. The
Swastika pin identifies him as a member of the Nazi party, this is a
significant symbol throughout the film.

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The
technique of keeping the man’s identity a mystery suggests that to begin with
he is a ‘no one’, however, as future events take place, his name and actions
become a significant imprint in history. Initially Schindler sees the Jewish
people as any other German would – slave labour, a way for him to make easy
money. His ability to connect with the Jews seems to be lacking, yet the first
flicker of a bond is shown when he saves his accountant, Itzhak Stern from
Auschwitz. Up until the liquidation of the Ghettos, Schindler was oblivious to
the reality of the war. He was only focused on himself and his own well being,
rather than looking at the bigger picture. During this incident, Schindler’s
attention is directed to a young girl in a red coat. This isolated element of colour
is surrounded by a sea of black and white, representing the innocence of the
Jews being slaughtered. The instant Schindler sights the child it marks the
moment when he is forced to confront the horror of Jewish life during the
Holocaust and his own hand in it.

We
witness the beginning of Schindler’s redemption and Spielberg’s exploration of
the universal theme of loss of innocence in the face of the abuse of power, and
the courage of those who stand against such negative forces. As the film
progresses, Schindler’s attitude begins to change, along with his view about
life. The contrast of black and white allows the director to deepen the impact
of the story. This contrast marks Schindler’s face, which is often half in
shadow, reflecting his selfish, dark side. However, his face becomes more lit
as he makes the transformation from war profiteer to saviour. Although
Schindler initially made small attempts to save the Jews, he didn’t have the
true motivation to put his heart and soul into becoming a saviour. However,
later in the film, as Schindler sees the body of the little girl in the red
coat being exhumed and wheeled into the fire under the direction of Nazi
officers, he decides to save as many Jews as he can with his profits from the
war – the death of the young child was the death of innocence and Schindler’s
hope. Stern, with Schindler’s assistance, types a list of 1,100 Jewish workers
known as, “Schindler’s List”. The list … is an absolute good. The list is life.

All around its margins lies the gulf” (Itzhak Stern). Lists are an extremely
important motif in the film, the majority of them symbolising evil and death,
however Schindler’s list represents pure good and hope. Without this list,
thousands of descendants of the Schindlerjuden would not be alive today they
owe their lives to one man. ‘Schindler’s List’ explores the issue of power and
the misuse of power. The differences between Oskar Schindler and Amon Goeth
clearly display the different viewpoints regarding power and its use.

Schindler
wields a great deal of power, mainly due to the amount of money he has, whereas
Goeth, the Nazi commander of Plaszow, uses his power to corrupt and destroy
human lives. Amon was a man who wavered on the brink of madness. His sick sense
of reality was shown throughout the film. His intense hatred for Jews led him
to perform horrific acts of cruelty, portraying his misuse of power. A prime
example of this is when he willingly and callously shoots innocent Jews from
his villa balcony at the Plaszow labour camp.

His
inability to see the Jews as humans allows him to kill without sympathy,
justification and guilt. Amon’s power is fuelled by fear, making him the symbol
of evil in the film. He takes pride in extinguishing the Jewish Ghetto and
rules the Plaszow labour camp without mercy. When a Jewish engineer advises him
that he needs to re-pour a foundation, he has her instantly executed     her seemingly black blood spreads through
the pure white snow. This contrast in colours emphasises the split between good
and evil.

The
blood pouring from the victim’s head is both literally and metaphorically the
life blood pouring out of the Jewish race. We begin to define the line between
good and evil and the way in which it can corrupt human beings. The message
portrayed that evil and the misuse of power is an ongoing matter, one in which
could affect anyone and is partially an involuntary act – the evil animalistic
behaviour becomes engraved into minds, like Goeth. Goeth can also be considered
to be Schindler’s foil, as they can parallel one another in many ways. At the
beginning of the film, this parallel is shown through the use of mirrors and
reflections, however, as the film progresses along with the character
transformations, they become opposites. Like Schindler, Goeth is a practical
man, not a thinker, but also fancies himself as someone of great importance; he
also has a weakness for liquor. However, what defined the two as good and evil
was that, unlike Schindler, Goeth was a cruel man who was physically abusive.

He uses his power to construct a road paved with Jewish headstones, symbolising
the destruction of the Jewish race.

Amon
seems to be unsatisfied with merely wiping out existing Jews, so by planning
the road he denies acknowledgement of many Jews final resting places. Despite
his intense hatred for Jews, he is intoxicated by his Jewish maid, Helen
Hirsch. Unable to touch Helen in love, his only acceptable option is to lash
out at her with a horrific display of violence. “I would like so much to reach
out and touch you in your loneliness…. Is this the face of a rat? Are these the
eyes of a rat? “Hath not a Jew eyes?” I feel for you, Helen. leaning to kiss
her No, I don’t think so. You Jewish bitch, you nearly talked me into it,
didn’t you? He quotes Shakespeare’s Shylock from the Merchant of Venice showing
that Goeth temporarily pauses in his rampage and listens to the voice of his
victims, in this case Helen Hirsch. For a critical moment evil seems to pause
and consider the fact that it may be possible to love this ‘creature’, although
Amon’s face tells us no. His fists thrash out not so much at Helen, but at the
recognition that he is doomed to loneliness by his evil by watching this film
and witnessing the effects power can have on people, viewers can learn and gain
a certain level of respect for those who are successful global leaders.

Schindler’s
List displays Amon Goeth as an evil man who abuses power, but Spielberg also
manages to show an unexpected depth and complexity to his character, displaying
the tentative impression of how quickly power can change from good to evil.

Throughout the generations good and evil have had a diverse range of meanings,
each person with a different denotation. In practical thinking, even the most
malicious criminal may contain a strong sense of love or compassion, whether
towards parents, partners of children. Every person is capable of the noblest
good or horrific evil, it just depends on the will power of the individual.

Good and evil are inseparable aspects of life.  “Schindler’s List” is a true story which
follows the man, Oskar Schindler and his transformation from war profiteer to
saviour. Viewers watch this man’s actions become significant in history, but at
the same time they begin to increase an understanding and connection with the
Jewish people, in particular Schindler’s Jews. WWII in Germany was an act of
mass destruction and loss of life , in this historic circumstance six million
Jewish and five million other lives were lost. These large numbers makes
portraying the Holocaust accurately extremely difficult.

However,
Spielberg has managed to replace the vast numbers of Jewish people sacrificed
during WWII with specific faces and names, enabling readers to make personal
connections with the characters, positive or negative. Viewers follow the
stories of various different Jewish families – Caja and Danka Dresner, Mila and
Poldek Pfefferberg amongst others. Viewers meet these characters at the
beginning of the film and follow their journey’s closely, beginning to develop
a connection to these individual victims, who represent the vast numbers of the
entire Holocaust. By using this individualism, it forces viewers to confront
the horror on a personal level, and to realise that every victim had a story,
loved ones, a home and a life. To perceive the Jews of the Holocaust simply as
a group or race dehumanises them a second time, removing their individuality
and uniqueness, each person was a separate being and deserved respect – respect
that the Nazi’s refused to give. In today’s society people still remain unique,
their differences and individuality making the world a multicultural and
diverse country.

Oskar
Schindler himself also embodies this idea of recognising and caring for the
individual, he begins to learn names, resulting in his extensive list. He is
unable to stand by and watch his workers perish, he has made a personal
connection with them and by seeing them die, and it is once again the death of
innocence. Schindler embraces the chance to save his Jewish workers, at one point
he grabs Danka Dresner on her way back to Auschwitz and shows her tiny fingers
to a Nazi officer, pointing out that only little fingers like her can polish
the inside of small shell casings in his factory.

His
courage could have killed him hundreds of times, yet he still prevailed saving
thousands of lives. This connection and courage allowed the Jews to gain hope,
Schindler is their light, their saviour. As the war ends, Schindler is forced
to flee as he is now considered a criminal. In an almost ironic twist Schindler
himself is presented with a list of all 1,100 worker signatures, vouching that
he is a good man with honourable intentions. Stern gives Schindler a gold ring,
with the inscription, “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire”. Schindler
breaks down, stating that he should’ve saved more lives.

He
shows that even the most collected people have a weak point and Schindler’s was
guilt and regret. Schindler flees and the next day his workers walk free,
marching to the tune of a Hebrew song. This black and white scene dissolves
into colour and the actors/actresses turn into “The Schindler Jews Today”
Spielberg carries the idea of individualism through to the final scene in the
film, over 100 of the real Schindlerjuden appear. In tribute, each of the
survivors places a stone on the gravestone of Oskar Schindler, accompanied by
the actors who portrayed them in the film. For every life saved, one rock is
placed on the grave. The last mourner places flowers on the gravestone and
stands with his head bowed, this is Liam Neeson. By connecting the real life survivors
into the film it proves that the characters are real, not fictional and shows
proof that the holocaust was real and shouldn’t be denied, it was a significant
event in Human history and should be acknowledged. Although the war ended a
long time ago, the impact and impression it left still remains. Hearts have
been broken, families lost.

Yet
still in a time of never ending darkness, there was light. This light was
Schindler – he saved the lives of more than just 1,100 Jews there are over
7,000 descendants of the Schindler Jews and they would not be alive unless one
man decided to stand up against evil. Schindler’s list was not only the story
of Jews and Germans, it was a human story. One which connects to every
generation, enabling mistakes to be corrected and people to be forgiven, this
can be done through learning and understanding, the holocaust shall remain in
the minds and heart of thousands of people.

 

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