Small Details In 'Schindler's List' That Make The Movie Even More Meaningful
Vote up the small details int he film that make it even more impactful.
Director Steven Spielberg's 1993 Holocaust epic Schindler's List follows the story of Oskar Schindler, a businessman who started a factory to exploit his Jewish workers and profit from their free labor, only to save them from dying in concentration camps. Starring Liam Neeson as Schindler, and Ralph Fiennes as SS commander Amon Goeth, this redemption story is extremely violent.
Schindler's List is a tough watch, with some people viewing the three-hour film only once in their lifetimes. But even though the film's disturbing images makes viewers uncomfortable, Schindler's List was made with a lot of care. The following small details prove how well-crafted the film is.
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Real-Life Holocaust Survivor And 'Schindler's List' Producer Branko Lustig Appears As A Maître D'
Branko Lustig was 13 when he was liberated from Auschwitz, losing his grandmother and father in the camps. Despite living through horrific tragedy, he started his film career in 1955 as a unit production manager on a WWII film.
In Schindler's List, he shows up as a maitre d' within the film's first five minutes, leading Schindler to his table at a nightclub. The actor revisited the Holocaust and his Jewish heritage throughout his career, working as a location manager in 1975's Fiddler on the Roof and as a production manager on Sophie's Choice and The Winds of War.
Along with his cameo, he served as the unit production manager and a producer on Schindler's List, reading out the tattooed number in his speech when the film won the Oscar for best picture:
My number was A3317. I am a Holocaust survivor. It's a long way from Auschwitz to this stage. I want to thank everyone who helped me to come so far.
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In The Epilogue, All The Actors Accompany The Original Schindlerjuden They Play In The Movie
Reality and storytelling come together in the film's final scene. After the survivors are liberated from the concentration camp, they walk to the nearest town. Then, after a short written epilogue, the image of the walking survivors merges with now-colored footage of the descendants of those on Schindler's list.
They come to show respect by placing stones on the grave of Oskar Schindler. Spielberg shows them in pairs, with actors from throughout the film walking alongside an older person. These are the real Schindlerjuden ("Schindler Jews”) showing their respect to the real Schindler's grave.
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All Extras Wore Real Garments From The '30s and '40s
Over 20,000 people needed to be costumed for Schindler's List. Polish costume designer Anna Biedrzycka-Sheppard took out advertisements in newspapers in Krakow, Poland, to find ‘30s and ’40s period clothing.
In response to the ad, the designer found mint-condition hats, gloves, bags, and eveningwear. She also stimulated the local economy: The country was going through a recession at the time, and many people were happy to sell their family's clothing to the production.
Using real garments from the time period added to the film's authenticity and garnered Biedrzycka-Sheppard an Oscar nomination.
- Photo: Spielberg / HBO4201 VOTES
Different Camera Techniques Were Used To Portray Control And Chaos
Most of Schindler's List was filmed in black and white by cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. According to him, nearly half of the movie was filmed on a handheld camera, giving the scenes a shaky quality, especially when Jewish families are forced into ghettos. The effect, along with the black-and-white film, leads to a documentary feel.
"We want people to see this film in 15 years and not have a sense of when it was made," Kaminski told Daniel Eagan in the book America's Film Legacy. To achieve the immersive feel, he said Spielberg "got rid of the crane, got rid of the Steadicam, got rid of the zoom lenses, got rid of everything that for me might be considered a safety net."
In contrast, in the scenes featuring Goeth and German forces, the camera is more smooth and militarized.
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Spielberg Purposefully Started The Film With A Family Observing Shabbat
Schindler's List opens with a Jewish family crowded around the table, lighting candles for Shabbat. As they say a blessing for peace, the camera zeros in on the flames, the color slowly draining from the screen as the candles burn.
Spielberg told Entertainment Weekly the idea to start a wartime movie with a peace prayer came to him at the end of filming when he was shooting a separate Sabbath prayer sequence:
That gave me the idea to start the film with the candles being lit… I thought it would be a rich bookend, to start the film with a normal Shabbes service before the juggernaut against the Jews begins.
As the final candle burns on a colorless screen, its smoke turns into the smokestack of a train, taking Jews away from their homes.
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The Barracks And Watchtowers Were Built Using Plans From The Original Camp
The production team for Schindler's List wanted to do justice to the story's scale, which included building a massive set on location in Poland. The cast and crew actually filmed in Krakow, a mile from the former site of the Płaszów work camp.
To add an extra layer of authenticity, the production team built 34 barracks, seven watchtowers, and a copy of Amon Goeth’s villa using the original plans and blueprints. At the time, this was the largest film production made in Poland.