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March 1994


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David Jonathan Levin <[log in to unmask]>
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David Jonathan Levin <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 6 Mar 1994 01:14:05 -0500
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I was somewhat puzzled by the following comment in Douglas Baldwin's
posting, re: "historical _inaccuracies_ in *Schindler's List*"
>Further issues concern Spielberg's occasional use of German at crucial
>moments during the film, the lack of any reference to the Warsaw uprising,
>the failure to create developed empathy for any who are subsequently
>killed, and other scholarly/critical questions raising ideological
>readings of the film.
It's not clear to me in what sense the use of German could constitute an
inaccuracy, nor do the rest of the "issues" raised here - dramaturgical
choices, perhaps, but *inaccuracies*?  It seemed to me, for instance, that
the "failure to create developed empathy for any who are subsequently
killed" is a smart move.  Thus, rather than merely rely on developing
empathy for the victims in the course of yet another Hollywoodification of
the holocaust, we are presented with an unusual (and, irony of irony, an
unusually *accurate*) depiction of the relative anonymity and lack of
"character" which these "sub-human" faceless and numbered (but unnamed)
victims had for the Nazis, that is, for their murderers.  This, it would
seem to me, is an entirely sensible thing to show, even if it's also quite
disturbing.  And in addition to being sensible, it's also historically
accurate: that's how the Nazi prison camp guards were trained... All of
which is to say: I'm glad Spielberg dispensed - if only in this one matter
- with the inanity of developing empathy a la Hollywood.  Rather than
developing our empathy, Spielberg insists (even if somewhat clunkily) that
the Nazis felt none for their victims.  Thus the implicit juxtaposition of
Schindler's list with that of the Nazis: S's list is filled with
characters, the Nazis on the other hand, had a list of numbers.  As a
result, S's "family" of employees gets the monopoly on empathy (very much
in the Hollywood mold). Ok, ok, it's a bit obvious as a move, but well
intentioned, no?  And surely not an inaccuracy.
david levin
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