Using Black and White during the Rule of Color

        Movies, since the death of black and white, have been predominantly in color. This idea is usually a good one considering most movies of today. Yet Steven Spielberg, in Schindler's List (1993), decided that, minus a few scenes in color, his movie was going to be in black and white. This is a big decision for a director of modern times. Most avid movie watchers turn away from black and white films. Why would Spielberg make this movie black and white? The beginning of Schindler's List starts with a brightly colored scene which slowly fades into black and white. This shift helps the audience fade into the 1940's along with the story. This shift takes us, the viewers, into Nazi Germany and into the plight of millions of Jews. Along with this idea is the fact that most people visualize the Holocaust as black and white. All of the photographs and film from this time are in black and white, another reason to plunge the movie into inky blackness.

        Another reason for Spielberg's use of black and white to highlight the idea of good and evil for instance during more frightening scenes the lightening is darker, to give the viewer the same sense of fear the Jews felt. Throughout the movie we see a contrast of light on dark or dark on light. The contrasting light dark angle is used as a metaphor for life and death. An example of this idea would be the image of the white skulls sitting on a pile of ashes or the women's white faces staring up at the dark showerheads, which mean their untimely death.

        Spielberg's use of black and white also makes the few color moments memorable. Only during the beginning and end do we see color minus the exception of the little girl in a red coat and hat. We witness this child, wearing her red coat and hat, playing in the beginning. Everything in this scene, minus the coat and hat, are in black and white. The bright red of her attire and the lack of color everywhere else bring the viewers' attention to her. We see this image again, yet this time the child is dead and piled in a cart. Everything is black and white except for the same coat and hat. These images put that little Jewish girl on a personal level with the viewers. The viewers must focus on her because she is partly in color against a black and white background. It is shocking to see her again yet dead and piled inhumanely in a cart with others.

Amy Hiett

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