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  • Is Schindler a Projection of Spielberg Himself?

    ‘Schindler’s List’ is a story of redemption—for both the film’s protagonist and its director



    By Gabriel Sanders for Tablet Magazine



    Schindler a Projection of Spielberg In a 1994 New Yorker profile that appeared a few months after the release of Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg spoke candidly about how his Holocaust epic had transformed him.

    In the past, he told the magazine’s Stephen Schiff, there had been projects he’d done for the money—things like the Indiana Jones sequels and Jurassic Park. “But,” he added, “these days I’d rather make the more difficult choices. I was just so challenged by Schindler’s List and so fulfilled by it and so disturbed by it. It so shook up my life, in a good way, that I think I got a little taste of what a lot of other directors have existed on all through their careers.”

    Schindler’s List is also a story of transformation—of a hunger for money giving way to a higher calling. At its outset, Oskar Schindler is a dissolute, if charismatic, figure: a womanizer, a war profiteer, an opportunist. It’s more than an hour into the film before the girl in the red coat prompts his course-altering epiphany, and then another hour before the compilation of the list that secures his place in history.

    Spielberg has often used characters who serve as stand-ins for himself: Roy Neary, the everyman visionary of Close Encounters; Upham, the brainy cartographer of Saving Private Ryan. Schindler fits squarely into this tradition. He’s a showman, a stager of spectacles, a Mitteleuropean P.T. Barnum. His talents, he tells Ben Kingsley’s Itzhak Stern, lie not so much with work but with “the presentation.” It’s perhaps no coincidence that the name by which Schindler goes most frequently is “Herr Direktor.”

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