Why is Schindler’s List in black and white?

Many of you have asked why the director chose to film Schindler’s List in black and white.  This moving film is probably the most famous black and white film of modern times.  It is thought by many critics that Spielberg chose to film Schindler’s List in black and white to create an extra layer of horrific realism. It is interesting to note that this film did not have storyboards as director Steven Spielberg looked to Holocaust documentaries for inspiration which helps to explain the use of documentary style in the film.

Janusz Kaminski, Schindler’s List’s Director of Photography, said when he discussed the look:

“I was ecstatic to be working with Steven, and yet when we began filming it brought home the sickening reality of the Holocaust. The newsreel quality of the black and white seemed to fade the barriers of time, making [the footage] feel like an ongoing horror that I was witnessing firsthand. I think I can speak for the whole crew when I say the experience was sobering.”

It is also worth noting that the film was shot without the usual use of modern filmmaking tools such as cranes, steadicam and zoom lenses. There was much use of hand held camera shots (40%) which helped to make the film seem realistic. Perhaps the lack of more modern filmmaking tools also helped the viewer to focus on the story being told and help bring alive the time period portrayed in the film.

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