Schindler’s List (1993) directed by Steven Speilberg, is a historical period drama that depicts the gruesomeness of living through the holocaust from 1933 to 1945. The film expresses how enigmatic, yet materialistic German industrialist, Oskar Schindler was able to spare numerous lives from persecution in the Holocaust. Spielberg never intended to entertain, gain personal value or profit from this film. He aimed to educate. Educate those who were in holocaust denial (at the time) by showing the events that lead to the dehumanisation of Jewish people. Throughout the film, the director uses various language features like dialogue, camera angles and sounds to show the change in Oskar Schindler’s character.
The language feature, dialogue was used to understand the materialistic nature of Oskar Schindler. At the beginning Schindler was nothing but a self driven wartime profitare. An example of this is when Schindler came to ‘save’ his accountant, Istak Stern from going to a death camp like Auschwitz. Here Schindler says “what would have happened if I was five minutes late, where would I be then”. This was a moment where his possessiveness of materials really stood out rather than his sympathetic humane qualities. Instead of saying something like ‘glad you are safe’ to Stern he twists his words to make Stern seem at fault. The emphasis on the “I” recommends that Schindler was never thinking of saving Stern out of generosity but rather because he would be a loss of an asset on Oskar’s behalf. Through this incident Spielberg shows that right from the beginning Schindler is putting value on Stern as a materialistic approach for the success of his business. He cares about personal success and it doesn’t faze him how he gains this ucess, whether it be taking advantage of others for his benefit, using others as ladders or even using money. Oskar, as an opportunist, held onto the person that would help him the most (Stern) in his journey to fame and success. In his eyes, success was through money and materials. Yet, while watching the movie I believed that there really was no need for him to be so materialistic and money focused, however my understanding of his nature was justified later. This occurred when Ocsar traded all his net worth to Amon Goeth to save hundreds of Jewish people. During this conversation with Amon Goeth he says “what’s a person worth to you”. This dialogue could make the audience believe that his materialistic nature is shining again by defining people as a certain value but he is actually using the money he already has to save those people. This incident made me feel thankful for the money driven character he began off as.
Another example where we are able to see Oskar Schindler’s materialistic nature is through camera angles. At the beginning of the film the camera does several tracking shots which displayed a series of Shindler’s belongings including his, name tage, neatly iron pressed blazers, cuff links, shined shoes and even a close up of his Nazi pin. The director uses tracking shots to give the audience a quick scan over what Schindler perceives to be to the outside. He wants to show his wealth, power but also his goodness in order to gain people’s interests. The close up of his pin indicated to the audience instantly that the protagonist was a member of the Nazi party. Despite the camera zooming in to show us a closer look the audience is able to feel a sense of distance due to the shocking discovery so early on. This shows that this materialism can also be a factor which distances many local people from him as they may think he is too high in hierarchy to even approach. However, to deal with high rank officers it comes to his advantage as he is able to show his status. The nature of power is that people in power will think that they are more superior than you. So in order to make them understand and listen you must also be of the same rank. This was very obvious in World War II as Nazi officers treated Jewish people as slaves and sometimes not even as humans. The difference in power between Poles and Jews were noticeable as Jews had to wear the Star of David on their sleeve whenever they stood foot outside. They were categorized as weaker (had less power) so they were also treated differently this is why the Nazi pin is so important to Shcindler as it means he is the same rank/power status as Amon Goeth. At the end of the film Schindler says that “I could have traded this pin for one more person”. This seems quite unrealistic as with his materialistic nature he would have never traded it in the first place and further with the circumstances it would have left him with less than what he got. The moment the pin is gone Schindler is almost giving into Amon Geoth as he does not have the proof he that is a Nazi. At any moment he could be hunted down and killed. This is similar to how in World War II all other Jewish people in Poland would have had to live in constant fear and worry. Seeing family, friends or even people you met for the first time being dehumanized and put in wringfull circumstances or even being shot for no good reason is something that Jewish people witnessed. Even survivors would have been traumatized by these incidents years after which made me realize that the materialistic side of Schindler really helped him make change in the end.
The language feature, dialogue was further used to understand the emotional nature of Oskar Schindler. This can be seen after the occurrence of the first death which is of a one armed machinist. During a conversation, an SS officer says “a one armed machinist, Schindler”, in which Schindler replies by saying, “he was a metal press operator. Quite skilled!”. This reply shows that the event of death really had made a slight impact on him. In this scene when Schindler replies there is a extreme close up of Schindler face followed by a close up shot of the blood from the machinist which was seeping into the snow. Here the dark black blood is being spread into the pure white snow. The contrast in colour can symbolize the contrast in Schindler’s mind in that moment. During the close up of his face the audience is able to see this more as his stern expression softens and he seems slightly sympathetic for a moment. He would have a rush of regret, guilt and sorry for not taking that Jewish machinist into his business earlier. This shows a more emotional side to Schindler but also the good in him triumphing over the materialistic or opportunist nature. We are also able to see this emotional nature Oskar Schindler in the girl in the red scene where he is standing at the top of the hill looking down at the commotion of the Holocaust. The scene starts off with a close up of Oskar Schindler’s face which showed a rather emotionless glare as if nothing would bother him. This is accompanied by a wide angle shot of a little girl in a red coat walking down the road with shootings occurring and chaos being lit behind her. This is quickly followed by an extreme close up of Oskar’s face again and for the second time the audience is able to see a different perspective. I could understand from this scene that his emotional nature made him feel hope for the first time. He felt hope to help the girl and help the situation then. The girl had touched something in Schindler’s heart which showed that even the most emotionally strong people can break down their barriers and walls. Here the barriers that were broken in Schindler led him to change his thoughtless and materialistic nature. This progression of the 3 different camera shots shows how his mood changes quickly after seeing the truth unfold right in front of him. The fast cuts also made the audience feel like we were experiencing an unboxing of events with him.
Schindler’s List by Steven Spielberg was a film which showed the materialistic and emotional nature of Oskar Schindler through language features like dialogue and camera angles. The way the director displayed Shindlers nature of his materialistic self was significant as this nature really helped him when dealing with Amon Goeth later on. The audience can even see him change as he sacrifices these materials in exchange for the human kind where we are able to see a more emotional character in him.