There are far too many places where hate, intolerance, and genocide still exist. Thus Schindler's List is no less a "Jewish story" or a "German story" than it is a human story. And its subject matter applies to every nation. Schindler's List is simply about racial hatred--which is the state of mind that attacks not what makes us people but what makes us different from each other. It is my hope that Schindler's List will awaken and sustain an awareness of such evil and inspire this generation and future generations to seek an end to racial hatred.
The film teaches us a powerful moral lesson. Schindler’s List was never intended to be a film which simply entertains. It unashamedly wants to educate, challenge, upset, compel and inspire us in a range of ways.
Through the story of Oskar Schindler, a war profiteer and member of the Nazi party who saved over 1100 Jews during World War II, Schindler's List explores the human capacity for monumental evil as well as for extraordinary courage, caring, and compassion.
The film turns history into a moral lesson by revealing how fragile civilisation truly is.
As Steven Spielberg said, "History has to cease being facts and figures, stories and sagas from long ago and far away about them or those. In order to learn from history, rather than just about it, students need to rediscover that those people were just like us."
“… a picture like this can impact on us, delivering a mandate about what must never happen again.”
Though setting is often the aspect of narrative that viewers take most for granted, Schindler’s List demonstrates that painstaking work goes into creating sets, props, costumes, and makeup that are both historically accurate and dramatic.
In a film we get to know a character often without even realising it, by taking in close-ups of the actor's face, his or her facial expressions, or the music playing in the background. Other elements, such as the character's size, age, costume, speech, how he or she moves, etc., also influence our understanding. We may perceive on first viewing that a character is dangerous by the harsh or darkened lighting on the actor's face, by the reaction shot that shows another character's fear or uncertainty, and by the ominous sounds on the soundtrack. Simple things like camera angles can telegraph a great deal about a character's feelings and personality.
Characterisation is the way the characters in the text are presented so the viewer is guided to make certain judgments that reinforce the themes of the text. Characterisation is shown by the words, actions, and reactions of a character, how other characters speak about them, how they deal with conflict, their thoughts and feelings, and direct authorial comment. It is through the characters that the reader understands different emotional and personal experiences and the themes of the text.
When looking at how a character changes or develops think about relationships, conflict of ideas or personalities.
Key Points to Study
Major character – describe their physical and personal qualities, any strengths and weaknesses and how they deal with an important issue.
How relationships are created and developed between main and minor characters?
How are the characters revealed or developed? Think about style and language features.
Conflict with other characters or within a character.
Ways to study Characters
What language techniques have been used to make the character seem real?
Identify 3 examples of when the main character showed or lacked responsibility, honesty, insight, or self-knowledge. How do these qualities show changes in the character?
Compare the qualities and circumstances of the main character and a significant minor character. How does this relationship affect each individual?
How do some characters reflect or conform to stereotypes or values of society?
How does the point of view impact on the reader's understanding and response to characters?
How has change in character(s) been used to show insight into the human condition?
How are characters developed through visual means, rather than spoken words?
In literature such as Schindler’s List the "big" themes -- love, honour, betrayal, family, evil, revenge, death, deception, class, race, and gender-are explored. Filmmakers like Spielberg choose to make films that explore these things because they believe that they have relevance for a contemporary audience.
Theme and Purpose
The theme of a text is the message the author/director is trying to get across to the reader throughout the text. The purpose can be the reason for writing/filming the text so the writer/director can teach the reader/viewer an important lesson about life or challenge existing views. There may be one main theme and several related minor themes in the text. Think of theme as a set of beliefs and values from which judgments on the characters, setting and actions can be made.
Theme-Key Points to Study
What are the themes the text presents?
Who is involved with these themes?
How have these themes been shown and developed?
What have the characters learned from dealing with this theme?
What is the theme showing us about our world and values?
Production techniques are the features used to make the text interesting and unique. Techniques may include: music, dialogue, lighting, graphics, colour, special effects, soundtrack, camera work, layout, use of space, oral and visual production techniques, or use of links . By looking at the production techniques closely you will gain a better understanding of how the text has been produced in order to present the themes, characters, settings, and plot.
The attitude of the director towards the character helps to set the mood or feeling of the text. Think about how the techniques and the mood of text work together to make the production convincing.
Key Points to Study
Structure – how the text and the ideas have been put together. Look at the overall structure of the text, the order of scenes, sequencing, and transitions.
Narrative point of view – who is telling the story and how does this influence what the audience experiences and feels towards the text? The director will choose and/or change the point of view to control the relationship between the audience and the character to support their purpose. Changes in perspective can be shown by techniques such as voice over and camera shots, like the point of view shot. Narrative style refers to how the subject matter is presented to the audience.
Dialogue – identify repeated language patterns in a character's speech. Look at the types of words used and how they speak. What does this show you about their personality and background? Think about how the voice is used to show subtle changes in emotion, accent used to show social status and background, and gesture to show response to other characters.
Symbols and Motifs
Film must bring home a theme in myriad small, subtle ways, and everything from the lighting to the makeup must enhance it. Directors are always looking for an image that can be a metaphor for a theme -- something dramatic and visual that will bring home the overall message, sometimes on a level that may not even register with viewers. When this image is repeated, it becomes a motif or symbol in the film that reminds the viewers of an important idea.