Spielberg’s Schindler – a fictional creation?
I had some trouble distinguishing some of the characters in the Spielberg film, partly because these changed from the original text.
Since I hadn’t yet completed the book, I kept mistaking Goeth’s girl friend, Majola, for Lena, even though they acted remarkably differently.
Majola in the book eventually threatened to stop sleeping with Goeth, if he failed to refrain from shooting Jews from his balcony. This was somewhat reflected in the film, but not so clearly as to keep me from being confused.
I also made the mistake a purchasing my box special edition of the DVD from Blockbuster Video, only to discover a huge portion of the Ghetto-slaughter scenes – including the girl in red – were missing. So I had to purchase a second DVD from Amazon which contained the missing footage.
I’m about 225 pages through the Kennelly book and realize just how many liberties Spielberg took in reshaping the Schindler myth.
Although the list of characters remains unchanged for the most part, Spielberg combined some to create mythological character in Stern, who served a number of roles originally assigned to several people.
More importantly, Stern is portrayed as the real hero in the Schindler myth, the man who helped bring Schindler to the right side of the force. In the book, this is suggested in one line where Stern is said to have found a rarity: a good goy. But in truth, Schindler in the book – as well as in other more historic documents took the lead and was much more active in helping save his Jewish workers than the film implies.
Spielberg presents us with a Schindler, who came to Krakow to make money and was slowly coaxed into helping more and more Jews with Stern finding ways to fatten his work force with Jews at risk of dying. In the book, Schindler was not coaxed. He actively sought out and brought over Jews he saw were at risk.
The film also portrayed Schindler as thinking well of Goeth, and that it took significant hard evidence to turn him against Goeth.
In the book, Schindler hated Goeth from the start and only used charms and bribes to get what he needed to protect the Jews.
Schindler and Goeth – in the book – are presented as mirror images of each other, one of the light side and the other on the dark side – an image shown briefly in the film when both men are shaving.
Schindler historically even took chances he didn’t need to take such as carrying information about the slaughters to Zionists connected to Turkey, and helping those agents sneak into the camp to get photos and other first hand information.
Schindler was apparently one of the principle reasons the Western media had hard evidence about the Holocaust as it was happening – a fact, largely ignored in the film.
The question is, however, why Spielberg changed Schindler’s character?
Why did the master film maker need to shift the credit for the remarkable deeds Schindler accomplished and show Schindler as someone who was nudged into doing the right thing?
I’ll outline these details over the next few essays on how these changes were orchestrated and possible reasons for the changes. First, I need to finish reading the book.