Ⅰ. Plot Summary
Schindler’s List is an epic drama film which depicts a real historical event of the nightmarish Holocaust during the World War Ⅱ. It is an account of the life of Oskar Schindler, a German entrepreneur who uses his wisdom and courage to protect more than 1,100 European Jews from being killed by Fascists. This film begins with hands lighting candles and a low voice of prayer from an ordinary Jewish family. At the end of prayer, the flames flicker out, a wisp of white smoke from the candle rising slowly, and then it becomes the roar of the train’s smoke, brings us to the year of 1939 that the Jews were ordered to relocate to the Krakow ghetto. Also the film changes from color to black and white, setting the mood for the dark content of the film. The color change also indicates Jews peaceful life has been broken, in contrast with the Nazi’s brutal and bloody. During this period, Oskar Schindler, a committed Nazi at first, arrives in Krakow with the intent to make money from manufacturing goods for the German Army.
He attempts to ingratiate with the local Nazis in order to secure lucrative war contracts. With the good relationship with the Nazi officers, he begins to establish himself as a business man quickly in Krakow region. He hires the Jews as workers, because of this choice, his life is radically changed. When Schindler saw the Germans slaughtered the Jews, his eyes still full of blank. Until March 13, 1943, Schindler watches the bloody liquidation with his mistress from the top of a hill, he saw a girl who dresses a red coat, and he is obviously moved by what he sees. His human nature broke out from the deepest soul. Despite his disgust, Schindler makes sure to befriend Amon Goeth, a sadistic Nazi who is charged with building and running the camp, in order to ask for the continuation of his factory and supply of workers. Schindler bribes Goeth and is allowed to establish his own sub-camp. Schindler begins to change from a cold-hearted business man interested only in profit into a person struggling to do the right thing, he makes his first attempts to covertly assist his workers and save them from persecution and death afterwards.
However, when Schindler receives word that the Germans to leave Krakow and the Jews will be transferred to Auschwitz, he at first intends to leave Poland with his money. But when he sees the red girl’s body on the way to crematory, he finds himself unable to do so in good conscience, he convinces Goeth to let him purchase his workers back and establish a factory in his hometown in Moravia, away from violence and mass extermination in Poland. Schindler and Itzhak Stern, his accountant who has convinces Jewish to loan Schindler the money to open the factory, compose a long list of the workers that are to be sent to Schindler’s factory instead of to Auschwitz. In order to avoid the military’s suspicion, Schindler brought arms from other plants and then sold to the military, for which he was almost bankrupt, in this way he saved 1,100 Jews.
When the war ends, Schindler tells his Jewish workers they are now free, but that he will be hunted as a war criminal and must flee at midnight. As Schindler packs to leave the factory, he encounters his workers gathered outside. They present to him a gold ting made from a worker’s gold dental bridge. Schindler breaks down and cries that he could have saved more lives had he only tried harder. The next morning, the Jews are told to be free. As they walk toward a nearby town, the scene dissolves into full color and reveals a group of real Holocaust survivors walking across a field, they place a stone on the grave of Schindler to show their respect. Ⅱ. Lighting Analysis
In the article “Film Analysis Guide”, it states that the lighting have a profound effect on the way an image is perceived. Also the low key lighting of dark scenes creates strong contrasts between the brightest and darkest parts of film (Prunes, 2002). In Schindler’s List, the black and white presentation effectively evokes the World War Ⅱ era and deepens the impact of the story. Black and white also presents the filmmaker with the opportunity to use sparing color to high light key scenes and signal shifts in time. (SparkNotes Editors, 2004) For example, the opening full-color scene, and then fades into the black and white scene. The shift brings viewers symbolically closer to the events and characters in the story. Also through black and white images, people visualize World War Ⅱ both on the visual and psychological. The black and white scene serves to deepen viewers’ immersion in the historical setting and a heavy mood.
Besides creating the atmosphere of the movie, it has another advantage. According to an article on SparkNotes Editors, “the black and white can highlight the impact of the movie, and contrast in the movie enhances the meaning of the scene, such as highlights the good and evil.” (2004). For example, when the one-armed man is shot in the head in the snowy streets of Krakow, his seemingly black blood spreads through the pure white snow, and the stark contrast in colors emphasizes the split between life and death, good and evil. At the end of the movie, the Jews are free, they walk out of the factory, the movie becomes color again, and it is brighter than before. It likes walking from the dark to the sunshine, we also can experience their mood of the death threats removed. Ⅲ. Symbol Analysis
According to SparkNotes Editors, “symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.” (2004) The symbol also mentioned in class, it can convey two kinds of meaning, one is simply itself and other one stands for something, it helps us deepen our understanding of character. (English Fiction, p.16) The girl in the red coat is the most obvious symbol in Schindler’s List, simply because her coat is the only color object presented in the main body of the movie. The girl in red coat denotes the transformation of Schindler’s personality. The first time she appears, Schindler changes from a cold-hearted businessman interested only in profit into a person struggling to do the right thing, with the second appearance of the girl, Schindler makes a further transformation from the person whose primary motive is profit to actively saving the lives of his Jewish workers. The red color represents yearning of hope from those Jewish, the struggle of fate. With the girl in red coat, Schindler’s heart was faint with the idea of salvation, for him, it represents the pursuit of conscience and responsibility. Moreover, it can be considered as the vigilance for all the people. Ⅳ. Characterization Analysis
A. Characterization through appearance.
As the text mentioned, “details of appearance including what a character wears and how he or she looks often provide essential clues to character…. Details of dress may offer clues to background, social status.”(English Fiction, p. 7) When Oskar Schindler appears first time in this film, his face is not shown, and the focus is on his possessions. He puts on his expensive watch, cuff links, and Nazi Party pin, and takes a large wad of bills from his night table. All these details show that Schindler is a rich businessman who has a relatively high social status; moreover he is a committed Nazi. These details forward he attends the Nazi Party, making a very good impression with the occupation authorities and keeping a good relationship with the Nazi officers. On the other hand, these details also carry a foreshadowing of that he is a profiteer businessman who only thinks the war is a good business opportunity, whatever justice and evil are out of his mind. B. Characterization through action
In the text, “to establish character on the basis of action, it is necessary to scrutinize the events of the plot for what they seem to reveal about the character. From these events, we learn about the emotional and psychological changes of the characters.” (English Fiction, p.8) The transformation process of Schindler’s inner struggle can be considered as an important part of this movie. For the first scene, Schindler gets out of the office after talking with the Nazi officers, something flutters in the air likes snowflake, he twirls some from the car, and realizes it is the ash, some children even play in the ash.
At this time Schindler ponders the Nazi’s cruel and inhuman slaughter. Though the action is small, it indicates that Schindler’s mind caused a strong impact, he begins to think which side he should stand. For the second scene, Schindler stands on the hillside and talks with Goeth, he sees the Nazi exhume and incinerate the bodies that were killed at Plaszow and the Grakow Ghetto massacre. When Schindler is noticed that Jewish will be sent to Auschwitz, at the same time, he also sees the girl who dresses red coat is on the way to crematory, the defense in his heart is collapsing. The two events call his human nature back, Schindler participate actively in saving Jews. C. Characterization through language
Through the language, it can reveal the innermost character and personality. For the scene, when he gets a ring from his Jewish workers, it is engraved with the Talmudic phrase, “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.” He sobbed and said, “I could have got more out…If I just… I could have got more. If I had just…I didn’t do enough…. I could have gotten…one more person and I didn’t. And I-I didn’t!” He bursts into tears while he is taking a gold pin off his coat. From his words and voice, we can know he is full of regret and guilt, and he is extremely sad because he could not save more people. V. Critical Opinions of film
Oskar Schindler, the main character in this movie, is a totally profiteer businessman at first. He hires the Jews as workers because of the low commissions. Also due to this choice, his life was radically changed. At the end, he looses almost everything, especially the money, for saving the Jews around him. As a capitalist, he may have been a failure, he doesn’t make a profit for himself at the end, and he is living in poverty. However, no capitalist is more successful than him, especially in that situation. From the war, he finds his faith, and the meaning of life. When he flees, he even blames himself, he could save more if he used his car and gold pin. At that time, his humanity bursts out thoroughly. Indeed, Schindler has done much, he tries his best to make the heaven for the Jews, and he is a hero in Jews’ mind. What’s more, the film makes a contrast with Goeth through actions and dialogs to highlight Schindler’s human nature. This movie encourages us to find the human nature in our deep soul.
English Fiction. (n.d.). Retrieved December 21, 2012.
Prunes, M. (2002, August 27). Film studies program. Retrieved from http://classes.yale.edu/film-analysis/
SparkNotes Editors. (2004). SparkNote on Schindler’s List. Retrieved December 21, 2012, from http://www.sparknotes.com/film/schindlerslist/