Oskar Schindler's metamorposis
“In the film ‘Schindler’s List’, Oskar Schindler undergoes a dramatic metamorphosis”. Discuss.
The film ‘Schindler’s List’ depicts the transformation of its main protagonist, Oskar Schindler, from an opportunist war profiteer to the saviour of over one thousand Jews. He is originally depicted as a womanizer and a Nazi sympathizer, however he becomes an ‘accidental saviour’ through his plan to utilize Jewish workers for his own gain. His metamorphosis is triggered by the exposure to atrocities committed by Nazis. Schindler becomes a genuine saviour motivated purely by saving as many lives as he can. His compilation of ‘the list’ and eventual support of the “Schindler Jews” in Brinnlitz is evidence of his pure humanitarianism and transformation
In the beginning of Schindlers List, Schindler is portrayed as suave, opportunistic, manipulator whose main motivation is to profit in any way he can from the war. In the first five scenes we see (through the clever use of camera angle) Schindler’s assessment of Nazi officers. He uses money to bribe waiters and changes from an unknown observer of the party to the life of the party. He is able to use social engineering to buy items from the black market, keep Stern from being sent to a camp and also to manipulate Nazi officers into approving his Jewish slavery-based company. He is a womanizer, and enjoys the fine thinks in life. In a discussion with his wife he says, “I want to do something extraordinary”. He considers this to be coming to Poland with no money and leaving as a rich man. He does indeed accomplish something extraordinary, however it is not what he initially imagines it to be.
Schindlers enamel factory, while only a place for Jews to work, creates a safe haven for its Jewish workers, and this only results in Schindler becoming an ‘accidental hero’. Schindler is still motivated by money; he hires cheap Jewish labour, which means more money for him. Being an opportunist, the war is in favour of him, as he is only interested in the money. Whilst there is perhaps evidence of a slow transformation occurring, Schindler is still unwilling to take responsibility of the good he has done for the Jews in his factory, like hiring the one armed worker. When Schindler saves Stern from going to a death camp he indicates that it is purely for his own benefit – as mentioned with ‘now what would I do without you’. When a young girl comes to ask Schindler to take her parents on, Schindler is outraged that his factory is seen as a ‘haven’ for Jews. However, he does eventually take the parents in, which indicates that a metamorphosis is perhaps taking place.
It could be argued that the catalyst of metamorphosis from a materialistic war profiteer to a true humanitarian is his witnessing of the atrocities perpetuated by the Nazi Party.
In the liquidation scene, the little girl in red coat is symbolic of Schindlers realisation of the atrocities taking place all around him. She represents the innocent and the suffering of all her people. Schindlers construction of ‘the list’ demonstrates his change from being a self-confessed criminal to his feelings of regret for not doing more to help the Jewish cause. He is acknowledging that he has played a part in securing some of the lives of the Jewish people through his list.
The end of the film sees the end result of Oscar’s transformation. He changes from a money-hungry war criminal to a humanitarian hero through his realisation of the impact that the war had on him and all those around him. He tells himself that he could have saved more lives, and this completes his metamorphosis from a person who wants material goods to a person who acknowledges that he could have done more to help others. His dramatic metamorphosis is needed to progress to his realisation that he had saved lives, and could have saved more.