Cross-cutting in Schindler’s List

Director Steven Spielberg uses parallel editing, or cross-cutting, a cinematic convention in which two or more concurrent scenes are interwoven with each other, throughout Schindler’s List. Parallel editing illuminates the stark difference between the hardships of the Jews and the comfort and optimism of Schindler and the Nazis in Poland. One scene to look at is when Schindler moves into his luxury apartment in Kraków soon after the Jewish owners are evacuated by the Nazis and sent to the Kraków ghetto (pictured above). We see the Nussbaums, under the watchful eye of SS officers, grab everything of value they can fit into a suitcase as they are forced from their luxury apartment and forced to join the Jews marching to the Kraków ghetto. These wealthy people are obviously outraged at their treatment. As they make their way to the ghetto, the scene cuts to Schindler entering the very same apartment seemingly moments after the family left. He tours the expansive, richly furnished apartment, admiring the luxurious furnishings and decorations. As he does so, the family arrives in the ghetto to find a tiny, dark, dirty room waiting for them. Sprawled on the Nussbaums’ bed, Schindler says, “It couldn’t possibly be better.” The scene then cuts back to the Nussbaums. Mrs. Nussbaum, with unconvincing optimism, remarks to her husband that “it could be worse.” Mr. Nussbaum responds, “How could it possibly be worse?” By interweaving these moments into a single scene, Spielberg forces the viewer to confront the bitter irony of the situation in which Schindler benefits from the Nussbaums’ misery. In addition, Schindler at this point in the film takes no notice of and has no remorse for the evacuated couple. The tremendous impact of his callousness is intensified in light of the family’s suffering. Read more about parallel editing (cross-cutting) at Sparks Notes.

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