Plus de Trois Couleurs: Schindler’s List (1993)

Sam Jacobsen, Junior Editor

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Warning: Though spoilers are mostly avoided, there may be a few slips.  Read at your own risk.

Possibly one of the most thought provoking and tragic films ever made, 1993s film Schindler’s List is a cinema classic.  Directed by the legendary Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List documents three things: The plight of the Jews during the holocaust, the careless lives of those that lead it, and a man that stood up for what was right.  Following the life of the man Oskar Schindler as he goes from Nazi supporter to a Jew saver, the film is filled with tear-jerking scenes, and disturbing visuals.  It’s a frighteningly true story of human-on-human brutality.  It’s an important story told with a mastery only Spielberg could achieve.

Schindler’s List is one of the films that surpasses its peers in artistic use of color.  Or, rather, its artistic lack of colors.  The film is almost entirely in a very crisp black and white.   Not gritty, shadowy black and white common in film noir, but a crisp, contrasted black and white.

schindlers list 02

Schindler’s world is a crisp B&W.

The effect of this is pronounced and obvious within the first few moments of the film.  Not only does the use of B&W make the shape of things in the film more noticeable, but it has a profound artistic impact.  The firstly noticeable trait the B&W lends the film is a feeling of age.  Thirty minutes or so into the film though and it becomes evident that the colors mean much, much more.

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The black and white highlights the line between good and evil

Makuch, Edward

The B&W highlights the evil–the dark.  And, it highlights the good–the light.  And (perhaps more importantly), it highlights the grey–the neutral.  By making the distinction between black and white more pronounced, it makes the evil of such a vile atrocity even more evident, and even more sickening than before.  Yet, it also highlights the good.  By having SS men appear to be cloaked in black, they seem more evil.  Then, make the good guys dress lighter and what you have is movie with more depth than most.  Then, there is the matter of the grey.  The grey primarily appears in the suits of Oskar Schindler.  This is important.  As the movie goes on Schindler develops more and more of a caring for the Jewish plight, and we can see this transition in his clothing.  He starts dressed in Nazi black, in the middle his suits are grey as he decides what path his life will take, and in the end he is clothed in white.

schindlerslist-red

The red sticks in people’s minds.

One of the most important coloration choices in the movie is the single use of red.  Red in the dress of a single Jewish child.  The doesn’t even receive five minutes of screen time, but her effect is profound.  She is the only color in the film, and it is she that sticks in the minds of people so profoundly.  The color of her dress means many things.  It represents the blood spilt, and the innocence lost.  She is arguable the most significant example of movie color choice in all cinema history.

PicMonkey Collage

Schindler’s clothes tell a story.

Schindler’s List is a classic.  It’s a classic because of its power.  It’s powerful because of how masterfully it’s made.  It’s a movie that is compiled of a powerful, true story, and an understanding of the power of color.  It’s a film that tells a violent tell, but doesn’t rely on splatters of Tarantino-esque red to tell it.  It is a true masterpiece.

Note: The opinions expressed are just that–opinions.  The power color has is real and amazing.  One of the most important aspects of color is that it means something different to everyone.  That’s the beauty of art; whether it be books, paintings, films, or music, we all feel different things about art.  We want to hear how you feel!  Email us at CHStheodyssey@gmail.com and tell us how you feel about color.

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