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On Sun, 6 Mar 1994, Douglas Baldwin (GD 1996) wrote:
 
> For a student in a seminar, I am looking for references to respectable
> sources detailing historical _inaccuracies_ in "Schindler's List"
 
I'm no apologist for "Schindler's List," but my many qualms with the film
are more aesthetic than historical.  A few of your student's questions
are, it seems to me, readily disposed of:
 
> She is especially concerned with the shower scene why would their clothes
> have been indiscriminately tossed if they were not to be killed, &c.).
 
In every film or photo I have ever seen of a concentration camp, the
inmates wore prisoners' uniforms.  Their clothes were confiscated.
 
> Further issues concern....the lack of any reference to the Warsaw
> uprising
 
The film is set in Cracow and in Czechoslovakia during a time of war and
primarily among an occupied population.  They obviously don't refer to
the Warsaw uprising because they didn't -- perhaps couldn't -- know about it.
 
As I said, there are a lot of grounds on which to attack the film, I just
don't think this kind of detail-by-detail approach is very fruitful.  My
objection to the shower scene is twofold:
 
        1) I beleived the use of women was exploitative (I don't care if it
really was women; lots of things that really happened aren't in the movie
-- we never see Schindler take a shit, for instance):  As the actresses
stripped and were herded into the shower, I was at least as aware of the
play of light on nude female bodies as I was of the horror that the director
was trying to convey.  In part, no doubt, it's my male sexual urges
tricking my eye.  In part, it was also my interest in comparing
Speilberg's work in the scene to the historical use of female nudes
in the graphic arts.  But I think it was also in part due to a certain
voluptuousness in the women that jarred with their supposed condition.
They weren't Playboy Bunnies, of course, but they weren't Kate Moss,
either.  It seemed to me that the sort of gorgeousness that Speilberg
is capable of deploying so eloquently undercut him here.
The women's bodies -- like the piles of clothing, eyeglass frames and
teeth in earlier scenes -- were objects to behold with an aesthetic -- if
not a lecherous -- eye.  I found them a queer sort of turn-on, and I was
pissed off at him for letting even the slightest trace of that erotic
tension to slip into what should've been the film's unspeakable core.
 
        2) To take an audience to the brink of the unspeakable like that
and then give everyone a shower (a sick inversion of "Psycho," if you ask
me....but that's another rant) is a shameless betrayal of what we all know
went on in actual gas chambers.  It's practically a sop to Holocaust
Revisionist who claim that the showers were, in fact, showers.  It's also
cheap sensationalism on the level of having a creepy hand reach for a
door knob beyond which sleep innocent babes...only to have grandma open
the door and tuck the little tots in.  Speilberg deploys this sort of
technique wonderfully in popcorn movies, but to do so in a film about the
Holocaust is grotesque.  Again, whether or not it *really* happened
according to Tom Keneally and the Schindler Jews is immaterial.  I'm not
arguing about the events but the tone Speilberg takes toward them.  He
pushes everyone in the audience to the edge of the most horrible act of all,
then he pops a paper bag behind them and laughs it off.  Martin Scorsese
would've had the balls to show people getting gassed, I hope.
Speilberg....well, it frightened him.
 
I know I'm opening a can of gnarly worms with this (and it is only a part
of my problem with kneeling before the film), but that scene struck me
(and your student, apparently) as so appallingly off that it seemed to
coalesce many of my most troubling thoughts about the film.
 
The problem with writing history with lightning is that lighting only
lasts for a moment and then you're never quite sure what it was you saw.
 
       Shawn Levy       |   "I used to have such sweet, sweet dreams,
  [log in to unmask] |      But now it's more like an air raid."