Little Girl in Red Essay example

Submitted By shaydu1
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The film begins in full color. A whisper of a prayer is spoken and the flickering yellow flame of a lone candle dissolves to the black smoke of a train. The shift in color connotes a shift in time, from present to past. The news flashes in black and white. So does the World War II footage. The violin cord strikes.... Through these plays on colors, contrast, and sound, Steven Spielberg achieves cinematographic excellence in his award winning movie, Schindler’s list. There’s no questioning the fact that it is indeed one of the most iconic American films ever made. It’s a monumental masterpiece that's chock full of emotionally powerful moments that stay with you long after the lights have come up. One particular image, however, stands out for all to see as a truly iconic, and haunting, moment. The little girl in the red coat. As with most great scenes, one really must understand its full context to truly appreciate its message. The film begins during the early stages of World War 2 after Nazi Germany has invaded Poland and is in the process of relocating the Polish Jews to the Kraków Ghetto. A German businessman, known by the name of Oskar Schindler, intends to profit off of the war effort and bribes Nazi officials so that he may win military contracts. With the help of Jewish businessmen, Schindler is able to procure enough funds to start a factory and where he hires Polish Jews to work in his factory for wages that are in turn given to the Germany army. Although, Schindler’s workers are allowed to leave the Ghetto and are somewhat protected from the horrors other Jews face, Schindler himself is still doing all of this for his own personal benefit rather than out of some selfless, altruistic, intention. The little girl in the red coat marks a turning point in the story for Schindler, which only adds to the emotional complexity of this piece.

The first thing one will notice, of course, is that the film was shot in black-and-white. Spielberg uses this cinematographic technique of chiaroscuro to bring verisimilitude to the film. This choice also heightens the documentary style feel of the cinematography. He uses these techniques in order to take the edge off the bloodshed, and to strike a contrast between awareness of the Holocaust and apathy. Because of this contrast, it makes the introduction of color in this scene an extremely emotionally powerful moment. The girl’s red coat is the only time (excluding the credits and Shabat candles) that color appears in the film. Before we delve deeper, here’s a quote from Spielberg himself about the image:
“America, Russia and England all knew about the Holocaust when it was happening, and yet we did nothing about it. We didn't assign any of our forces to stopping the march toward death, the inexorable march toward death. It was a large bloodstain, primary red color on everyone's radar, but no one did anything about it. And that's why I wanted to bring the color red in.”1

Spielberg has been known to state multiple times that the process of shooting this film was a deeply emotional process for him and those around him which is reflected in the aforementioned quote. Using Spielberg’s quote as a jumping off point, the girl in the red coat is the most obvious symbol in the entire film. In this scene, she walks around seemingly oblivious to the horrors unfolding around her. In a way, she represents Spielberg’s own feelings on the lack of action the world powers took in stopping this genocide from unfolding. They chose to be blind to the horrors unfolding right before their very eyes. And, as Spielberg mentions, red is symbolic of a “bloodstain”. By bringing in such a distinct color over a relatively small area in a black-and-white film, one begins to really feel that this is a stain that can never be washed away. Children are the very essence of innocence and, in this scene, the little girl in red is not only representing the innocence of a child, she also represents the…