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The Ethics of Remembrance

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Pianist, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and, finally, Schindler’s List – each of these movies refers to the horrors of Genocide, reconsidering something that has already become a history in an artistically perfect way. On one hand, it is important that while dealing with the historical events that made people suffer, a writer or director is aware of the fact that he also deals with people’s feelings. On the other hand, I am convinced that in the modern world the term ethics does not apply to art. Throughout almost a century of its development, cinematography has changed drastically. However, the art as such is still far from giving up its educational and moral functions. In this regard, it is important to admit that Schindler’s List has recently become a subject of the heated discussions. The point here is that a huge number of critics disapprove of Steven Spielberg’s way of depicting the historical reality and delivering a message. At the same time some consider Spielberg’s creative manner applicable in this particular case. Therefore, there is a need of reconsidering the issues of intent purpose and subject matter of Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List.

Schindler’ List by Steven Spielberg tells the story of a Geman man, his life, and commitment in favor of the Jewish people (Spielberg, 1993). Admitting the merits of the film, Miriam Bratu Hansen (1996, p. 294) distinguishes between the three dimensions of Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, namely, the level of official publicity, the second, and the third levels of reception. The second level of reception is shaped by publicity, whilst the third one is merely influenced by the critics’ opinions (Hansen, 1996, p. 295). At the same time, it is claimed that the work of art under consideration should be viewed as a product made for the broad audience with commercial purposes.

Claude Lanzmann’s position opposes that, of Miriam Bratu Hansen. More precisely, Claude Lanzmann criticizes the work of Steven Spielberg during the production of the Schindler’s List. Lanzmann’s main remark concerns the realism of the movie (Lanzmann, n.d.). Specifically, Claude Lanzmann emphasizes the absurdity of the idea that a German person might have saved more than one thousand Jewish people. Moreover, this fact contradicts the historical reality of the 20th century. On the other hand, Lanzmann disapproves of focusing on one man’s life and, actually, using the tragedy of Holocaust as a setting. Finally, Claude Lanzmann refers to Steven Spielberg’s Schindller’s List as a melodrama (Lanzmann, n.d.). At the same time, Claude Lanzmann claims that he is fascinated by Spielberg’s Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Arc, E.T.,and Jaws.

In my opinion, the idea that Schindler’s List should not be taken as a credible historical source is quite reasonable. I am convinced that the work of art under consideration should be regarded as a fiction and the artist’s mean of drawing the audience’s attention to the issue and keeping the memory of the historical tragedy. Thus, it is possible to assume that the movie can be regarded as a caveat. I am inclined to think that the focus on one man’s destiny contributes to creating the participation effect within the film.

To conclude, it is important to admit several points. As far as the issue of the ethics of remembrance is concerned, it is important to admit that there are some flaws in the positions of both the proponents and opponents of Steven Spielberg’s artistic method applied in Schindler’s List. Minor flaws mostly deal with the slight inconsistency of both criticism and praise. Typically, the truth in such cases h is always somewhere in between the two extremes.     

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