Holcaust Cinema : Schindler's List And Shoah

                        Jews Holocaust films narrate or document the persecution and genocide of Jews and others under the Nazi third reich of Adolf Hitler. From the 1935 Nuremberg laws that excluded Jews from citizenship, to the destruction of theirs synagogues and businesses, to the rounding up of Jews not only in Germany but in all German occupied territory, to the operation of the Nazi death camps and other acts of mass  murder, these traumatic events in the modern history constitute the Holocaust, or so it is called, the Shoah.

                         Holocaust films are not a celebration of sadism. Some of the greatest films ever made,  happen to be Holocaust movies and the probable reason for that is, that it mirrors life at its extremes by juxtaposing the most appalling atrocities humans are capable of along with the unimaginable love, perseverance and power of the human spirit.

Holocaust Representation In Shoah

                  Ever since the appearance of Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, only eight years after Claude Lanzmann's Shaoh(1985), these two films have come to represent the polarities in a debate in how cinema should tell stories about the Holocaust. Lanzmann's film gathers first-person reports that centers on the process of systematic arrest, transport, internment, and annihilation of Europe's Jewish population; it shuns dramatization in favor of the setting of these interviews against the contemporary landscapes at the sites in which the tragic events took place.

                      It strategically refuses to recreate past horrors except through verbal tellings, so that  the visual in the film rests only on the speakers and on landscapes that are otherwise silent about the events that once occurred there. Yet Shoah, is a documentary concerned with the documents, and with oral history as a form of documentation. To hear testimonies, presented with all its emotional weight for the victims, is newly compelling. 

                    The secretly recorded interviews with former Nazis need to be heard in the context of victims interviews, to hear in contrast the emotional withdrawal and denial that occurred, especially vivid when the former Nazis reports facts that coincide with the victims accounts. The interviews with polish peasants and workers reveal not only antisemitism in the past, but lingering antisemitism embedded within their narratives. 

Holocaust Representation In Schindler's List

                       Schindler's List, by contrast, fictionally amplifies a fraction of Holocaust history for emotional effects. Shot in black and white, the film is acutely stark, simplistic and devoid of Spielberg’s trademark wizardry. The film is a treasure-trove of unforgettable characters including the Schindler (Liam Neeson) also more powerful characters like the quiet good angel Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley) and the shockingly satanic Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes). 

                        The relationship of Hollywood to Holocaust begins with the denial, and then 50 years later Hollywood's greatest director creates an Academy-Award winning Holocaust film. But, in many ways Spielberg did so by taking stock of how the story had been told throughout the years -- it's not that Schindler's List is derivative, but it is derived. The graphic footage in the films of 80's, allowed Spielberg to use film in more subtle ways.

                    It was so powerful because of the casualness of its storytelling. It's the reticence that makes it more effective. In Schindler's List, Spielberg uses a young girl in a red dress as the only spot of color in an otherwise black and white movie. He explains, that it is, a metaphor for America's complicity. The Holocaust was, Spielberg says, "a large blood stain, and nobody did anything about it."

                       Can movies like this stop further Holocausts from happening? Well, let me tell you a incident. Movie-goers filled the theaters to watch Schindler's List at the time of its release. The viewers left the theater with deep sorrow at the depths to which humanity could sink. Meanwhile, preparations were underway to kill every Tutsi man, woman and child in Rwanda. UN peace keepers were present in Rwanda with a mandate to protect civilians. Yet, when the genocidal plans began, the UN forces withdrew. And, look what happened to our Srilankan Tamils. 

                        Movies like Hotel Rwanda, Shooting Dogs powerfully portrayed the Rwandan genocide . Similarly many movies about the genocide of Srilankan Tamils will be taken in the future. But, how could such powerful films, was ineffective in motivating people to act , when another genocide was underway?

                       Well, a movie can arouse your emotions; it can show you the sorrow of the victims. But, humanity depends only through our actions against these atrocities.


Anonymous said...

good information
i watched schindlers list
it is a wonderful movie
Thank You

Jayashree Srivatsan said...


I have been to the museum related to World War II and Nazi regime in Washington DC...It was just a museum but it left such a deep impact in me...On how horrific the tales were of the time...and with no proper reason except hatred one sect had for another....Centuries go by but humans keep forgetting totally about humanity!! Sad!

Vetirmagal said...

A wonderfully written reminder about these movies. I am intending to watch them again , and feel sad allover.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have seen Schindler's List, but is there an online link to see "Shoah" with english subtitles?

Arun Kumar said...

@Chirag Joshi, Thanks for the comment. Keep visiting.

@Jaish_vats, Thank you for visiting the post. Hatred and Humanity finds its place with Humans, one after another.

Arun Kumar said...

@Vetrimagal, Thanks for your comment.

@Sugeeth, Thanks for visiting. Since, Shoah is 91/2 hour documentary, I recommend you to download a quality print from torrents site.

Haricharan Pudipeddi said...

Ah Arun there you once again, sweeping me off my feet. Crisp, well-crafted review. Keep em coming

Amalia Pedemonte said...

I´ve seen Shoah at the Tv... It´s a meaningful documentary, but it is long and tough ... I last almost nine hours... I suggest you to watch each by parts

Amalia Pedemonte said...

Schindler´s List is a masterpiece