The much imitated red coat scene from Schindler's List
Schindler's List is certainly not an easy film to watch. Good cinema rarely is. I recently sat and reacquainted myself with the film again after a number of years since the last viewing. At three hours long, it remains a fiercely powerful film that mixes a moving story with beautifully shot visuals. The cinematography is just superb and the little girl in the red coat amongst that violent sea of a black and white Krakow street remains a classic moment in cinema.
However, this post isn't about the film's brilliant cinematography, but the use of photography within the movie. One scene from Schindler's List stands out for me as a photographer. It conveys the whole evil purpose of the Nazi final solution in one camera shot and it uses old photographs to do it. The scene moves from the suitcases left behind on the Krakow railway station platform to the inside of one of the station buildings where the contents of the suitcases are being systematically processed by the SS.
Anything of value is being taken for the Reich. There are piles of glasses, shoes, watches, jewellery, children's toys and as the camera finally pans along, the film suddenly cuts to a massive pile of old family photographs in large suitcases. Even these unique family photographs, with incalculable sentimental value, are being processed. In that one scene it shows how the Nazis intended to wipe out the Jews complete with their history, their culture and even their memories. No past. No trace. Nothing.
Does this photograph scene hit me more because i am a photographer? No. Family photographs transcend value compared to other items like gold and jewellery. Family photographs show where we are from, our past, who we are, where we belong, and to erase a people of its past only sends out one message, a message that should be fought vigorously wherever it's found.