Explain how Steven Spielberg uses extravagant settings in  Schindler's List to create not only an entertaining product of visual extremes, but also an explanation of human conscience.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The settings of the film help to bring out the fundamental differences in basic living for those who were in the position of power in the Holocaust and those who were not.  Consider the moment when Schindler moves into his new home.  Once occupied by well- to- do Jewish people, Schindler surveys his home and then, relaxing on his bed, looks up and says, "It could not be better."  The immediate cut that follows is the family that used to live in what is no Schindler's home, looking at one another and remarking, "It could always be worse."  This statement is a stunning reminder as to how settings in the Holocaust reveals life lived in it.  For those who were in the position of power, such as wealthy Germans or Nazi officials, life truly was good.  "It could not be better" summarized the homes they lived in, the parties they attended, and how their surroundings were representative of opulence and grandeur.  For those who were being persecuted, the movement into the ghettos, the cramped conditions of three or four families living in one area, and, of course, the progression from concentration camps to death camps represents how setting reflected so much of reality.  The use of setting in the film starts the process of examination as to the different experiences of life during the Holocaust.

This is evident in the flim's setting of Plaszow.  Goeth lives in a villa, perched high on a hill.  In this setting, there is the best wine, the most decadent of celebrations, and a life where the finer elements are demanded and appreciated.  The care that Goeth shows towards the cleaning of a horse saddle and a bathtub are reflective of this.  Yet, as Goeth gets up in the morning, stands on his balcony with fine cigarettes, he takes his rifle and shoots at the prisoners of the camp.  His bullets find random targets, shot down as animals on a hunt.  Plaszow for those who live under Goeth's villa and his reign is a hell.  The lice that infects the prisoners, the bunks that hold multiple people in one section, and the difficulty of life is brought out in the setting of the camp.  This is contrasted with life on the hill, in Goeth's villa.  Such a display of setting reflects how there is a difference in reality in both those who were perpetrators of the Holocaust and those who were victims of it.  Human conscience is shown to permit both realities until someone like Schindler, in the position of power, is able to initiate change to it.  

The setting of the final scene where Schindler says farewell to his workers is one in which he crumbles to the ground, the ground where Jewish workers walk and toil.  His emotional disintegration into tears with his workers embracing him is a setting in which there has been resolution.  Individuals have found a moral ground in which there is both pain and comfort, with the terror of the Holocaust looming as a lesson to be learned.  It is here in which the final scene helps to reach an explanation of human conscience.