Use of details and techniques in Schindler's List?
Writers use detail to draw attention to a person or event. Filmmakers use color, motion, and sound to accomplish the same thing. What scenes in Schindler’s List are in color? Why do you think Spielberg chose to film these scenes in color but not others? How was music used in the scenes you recall most vividly? What ideas or events did the music underscore?
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Perhaps the most memorable and effective use of color in recent film came in the scene of Schindler's List where the Krakow Ghetto is being liquidated, and while the population is being sorted into lines, we follow one small girl in a red coat who eventually leaves the lines and goes to hide.
Later in the film, when the Pleszow labor camp has to be moved, the Nazis try to destroy the evidence of their murders, and the prisoners have to dig up the corpses and move them. Then we see the one girl in a red coat again, and it is the first time the viewer realizes what happened to her. It takes the massive crime of the Holocaust and individualizes it.
As for the use of music, the most memorable scene to me was when the ghetto is being liquidated, and one SS officer stops to play Mozart on a piano while people are obviously being murdered upstairs. In that case, we have the tragic contrast of the mass murder with the beauty of Mozart's music.
Spielberg uses a black and white sepia film stock in Schindler's List to give verisimilitude to the film, to take the edge off the bloodshed, and to strike a contrast between awareness of the Holocaust and apathy.
The film begins in color. A prayer is spoken and the yellow flame of a candle dissolves to the smoke of a train. The shift in color connotes a shift in time, from present to past. The news is in black and white. So is World War II footage. In fact, most of the greatest films of all-time (except perhaps 2001: A Space Odyssey) are filmed in black and white. Visually and psychologically, viewers trust black and white. Spielberg's cinematography strikes the perfect balance (known as chiaroscuro).
The black and white also serves to stylize the violence. The point-blank executions are grizzly, to be sure, but filming them in black and white makes them less visceral. The blood is black, instead of red. As such, the bloodshed is less gratuitous.
Schindler is awakened to the Holocaust during the liquidation of the ghetto when he sees the little girl in the red coat. She is an Innocent, and her red coat is symbolic of the aforementioned blood that has been spilled. Now, the blood is on Schindler's hands, as he is aligned with the Nazis. He soon realizes that he must save his workers from the same fate as the girl. Later, Oskar will see the girl in the red coat's charred remains in the concentration camps. She is a reminder of the victims he could have saved (if he had awakened to the horrors sooner).
The film ends in color as it shifts back to the present. The Schindler Jews place stones on his grave as an homage to his sacrifice.
The little girl in the petticoat being highlighted in color both when the Ghetto was being liquidated and towards the end when the Final Solution was being embraced is a deliberate technique to reflect Schindler's moral conscious being woken from its slumber. The image of Schindler's face when he recognizes the carcass of the little girl is the moment when we, as the viewer, fully understand that he has changed and something has changed within him. It is at this moment that the music swells and the very next scene, when he is speaking with Stern about the future, the violin's singular note helps to accentuate the crying out for moral redemption in a world where there is so very little. This violin theme is something that is continually haunting the film and probably reaches its most poignant moment when at the end, Liam Neeson, places a rose on Schindler's grave in a gesture that is for more than Schindler, for more than those who died, but for all of humanity that struggles in their own internal self between the angels of love in Eros and its negation, Thanatos. This battle can only be brought out by that singular violin chord.
The scene involving the liquidation of the ghetto with the girl dressed in red is paramount to the development of Oskar as a character and is a very effective collaboration of filmic techniques and devices.
Many who look back at the Holocaust see the 6 million jews dead as a statistic. With the use of red one of those 6 million is singled out and their life captured and followed through to her demise in one of the subsequent scenes. This indivualisation creates a mroe direct and more personal connection between the viewer and the girl and hence presents a more confrontational image to the viewer.
There is also the significance of symbolism in this scene with the use of a child as a symbol of hope and innocence. This manipulation of the truth (there were no children in concentration camps they were killed off much sooner) is clever by Spielberg. The constant use of children and the elderly to create a distressing image for the viewer to emote with throughout the film makes for a more empathetic bond to be formed. This in turn creates a more emotionally active film.
Finally, the cinematography in this scene is anything but accidental. The juxtaposition (contrast in a sense) of jumping form the high angled shot of looking down at the 'dangerous below' of the liquidating ghetto to the low angled close-up of Schindler amidst a nice forest in the safety of plateau pronounces distinction and pits Oskar on one side and the countless slaughter of hundreds on the other. It is from this scene and the agony we see in Schindler's face from watching the girl walk among the horror and death that Schindler has an epiphany. He realises that he is on the wrong side of the 'black and white' war. As the high angled shots are emulating the first person view of Schindler it thrusts the viewers perspective and that of Oskar's colliding into each other to provide a confrontational and uncomfrotable view. It forces the viewer to see from Shindler's perspective. Through the use of juxtaposition and introducing that first person view Spielberg once again finds a back alley way to the viewers emotions.
It is clear that individually these factors are quite effective however it is when they are so harmoniously and cohesively interweaved that a masterfully excecuted scene like this can be formed. Spielberg is a master of his art and it shows when he time and time again manages to manipulate and play with the emotions of the viewer.
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