“War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children” (Jimmy Carter, Nobel Lecture). As Jimmy Carter stated, war is vicious, and its terrors are so many and of such weights that they cannot be described in words.
Furthermore,war inflicts trauma that is far beyond healing in the hearts of people. There is no victory for individuals in the war, the only things that war gives people are endless pain and suffering. Nevertheless, throughout history, nearly every country treats war as the method to gain power and victories, but hardly realizes that war has more negative impacts than the benefits it brings to people.
In the movies Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List, director Steven Spielberg portrays the common theme “innumerable negative impacts of the war” through the brokenness of families, loss of innocence and forfeiture of conscience to let people remember the deeply grieved histories of war as well as remind people of cherishing peace that many people sacrifice their lives for.War breaks up families; children and their parents can be separated and the comfort of livelihood is swept away. In Saving Private Ryan, after the General finds out that three out of the four brothers of the Ryan family died in the war, he decides to form a rescue squad to save the last of the four brothers in the family, Private James F. Ryan. After countless hardships, the squad that forms by Captain Miller and eight other soldiers finally finds Ryan and completes its mission–to bring Ryan home safely. However, in order to do this, seven men in the squad sacrifice their lives.
Although this sorrowful result is unexpected, it shows the cruelty of war. In the movie, it is not only Ryan’s family that feels the loss inflicted by the war, but also seven families of the squad and thousands of other families whose loved ones go to the war. Whenever there is a war, there are always innocent people being killed so that their families get separated. “Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die” (Herbert Hoover). Like Herbert Hoover said, war is fought by the brave young men that have no other choice. People are weak in front of weapons. One bullet can take a person’s life within one second, but at the same time, that bullet also kills a family’s happiness and brings endless suffering to that broken family.
Likewise, this theme is also displayed in the movie Schindler’s List. During the time of the Holocaust, thousands of Jewish families are taken out of their homes and put into ghettos, which are large prison type establishments that house dozens of Jewish people in one small apartment. They are then heartlessly separated from their families, “Men to the left, women to the right”(Schindler’s list) and are placed in concentration camps to work for Nazis. At first, the Jews have no idea that their destinies are controlled by Nazis, they simply think they have already gone through the worst situation, which is being forced to move out of their houses. But as time goes by, after the Jews see thousands of terrible killings of their compatriots, dread starts to spread through the crowd like a contagion. Whenever they hear a gunshot, a look of hopelessness comes into their eyes, yet all they can do is to prey that their separated families are alive. Finally, driven by the desperation of being separated from their families, people lose all abilities to think rationally.
One day, when a truck full of children drives past the female camp, all the people rush to the truck without thinking to find out whether their children are alive. For the first time, people shows no fear in front of the guns, they leave their own lives behind, just to have a glance of their children. At that moment, under the sound of gunfire and desperate shouts, the suffering and pain that are brought to broken families has been showed vividly. Every time when a Nazi kills a person, he also destroys a family full of hope and brings eternal sorrow to the living ones in that family.
In addition, war brings people death and pain not only physically, but also spiritually. The influence of war causes people to lose their innocence. In Saving Private Ryan, Colonel Upham, a technician who is forced to join the rescue squad to serve as a translator experiences the loss of innocence through the impact of war. First as a technician, Upham is not used to being in the front of battle.
However, as Captain Miller needs someone fluent in German, he is pulled from of his desk job to fight with the squad. Through their journey to save Private Ryan, Upham still has a strong sense of morality, even after he sees a lot of killing and deaths. While others in the squad seem to be tempered and hardened by the war, as a result, their feelings of forgiveness have been lost over time. Also, Upham even pleads for a German soldier’s life who surrendered earlier. However, the German soldier who is saved by Upham comes back to the battle and kills Captain Miller.
After Upham sees all of this, he decides to kill the German soldier that he has tried so hard to save earlier. Throughout the movie, Upham’s innocence gradually fades away as the war continues. He once thinks that soldiers can be civil, but he later succumbs to the evil of the war when he shoots the German soldier that kills Captain Miller. As a result, the war makes Upham finally understand the horrors of killing and become hardened just like the rest of the squad. This further exemplifies that war can make people lose their innocence and make them become machines that kill people without feeling guilty. Schindler’s List is yet another movie that reveals the loss of innocence through the war by director Steven Spielberg. In the movie, a little girl in red coat becomes one of the most noticeable symbol in Schindler’s List just because her coat is one of the four color objects presented through the whole movie.
To Schindler, she represents the innocence of people. He sees the little girl from above the hill and suddenly compels his attention to her, as she walks on the street alone through the madness and chaos during the liquidation of Jewish aimlessly. This little girl walks through the violence of the evacuation as if she cannot see it, ignoring the carnage around her and not showing a trace of fear; but behind her, it’s a German soldier who has a gun pointed on her head. Schindler is so deeply shocked by this little girl that his eyes keep following her until she disappears in the crowds. However, later in the movie, Schindler would never expect that the second time when he meets this little girl, the little girl changes his life.
In a pile of exhumed dead bodies, Schindler’s eyes fall upon a little red target. He walks closer, and realizes in astonishment that the red target is the dead little girl. Her red coat shines like a bleeding wound caused by the cruelty of war. Schindler is completely astounded by this miserable scene that he makes up his mind to save as many innocent people as he can. In the movie, the little girl’s death not only indicates the revival of Schindler’s conscience, but also symbolizes the loss of innocence in society under the effects of war. As the war progresses, another heartrending impact it causes to people is that war makes people forfeit their conscience and go against their principles.
In Saving Private Ryan, Steamboat Willie, who is a German soldier, becomes the symbol of forfeiture of conscience. When the rescue squad is on their way to save Private Ryan, Willie and his team get attacked by the rescue squad, leaving Willie the only one alive in the team. He is beaten down by the soldiers in the squad and is asked whether he is the one who kills their squad member Wade. The group then threatens to shoot him in order to avenge Wade, but Upham, a translator in the squad saves him. The squad makes Willie promise that he will never come back to the war and Willie does exactly what the squad asks him to do without thinking.
However, in the final scene, Willie comes back to the battlefield, kills Private Wilson and Captain Miller, who forgives him earlier and let him go. Although Willie is killed by Upham at the end, his presence undoubtedly shows that war makes people go against their reputations. Also, the promise Willie once made further symbolizes the forfeiture of conscience among people which is driven by the war. Similarly, the process of forfeiting one’s conscience is also displayed in the movie Schindler’s List through the character Amon Goeth, a Nazi soldier who is in charge of the new labor camp that is being built by Jewish slave laborers. In his first scene, when a Nazi officer is providing a tour to Amon Goeth, commotion is heard from a nearby construction site. Then a Jewish woman comes up to Goeth and explains to him there is a problem with the construction of the barracks and it must be torn down to rebuild, otherwise it is going to sink and collapse. However, after Goeth hears the reason and learns that she is an engineer, he orders to kill this woman on sight.
“That’s somebody who knew what they were doing. That’s somebody I needed. Take it down, re-pour it, rebuild it, like she said”(Schindler’s List). After the engineer is shot, Goeth follows her suggestion and asks his subordinates to rebuild the camp.
In this case, although Goeth agrees with the engineer’s idea, he still shoots her just because she is a Jew, whom in his opinion, is less human and deserves less respect. Therefore the engineer can not argue with one of Goeth’s subordinates even though he could have used her skills. Indeed, war makes Goeth forfeit his conscience and go against his principles by killing innocent people.
When the engineer tells him that the labor camp is not safe, he does not appreciate her, instead, he kills her under the charge of arguing with a Nazi officer. In the movie, not only Goeth, but also thousands of Nazi officers forfeiture their conscience after the baptism of the war. Moreover, by the impacts of war, the principles that people once care for so much gradually fade under the devastation of bloodiness which finally make them become the slaves of the war, spreading fear and pain to all innocent people. Overall, in both Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List by Steven Spielberg, the negative sides of war that fall on people are presented through the brokenness of families, loss of innocence and forfeiture of conscience. By looking back to histories, nearly every country looks at war as an indispensable weapon to gain power and to therefore win victory. However, very few of them realize that war has much more destructive impacts than the delight it actually brings to people. Wherever and whenever there is a war, there are always innocent people getting killed, leaving the living ones in the family trapped in an interminable state of suffering.
War is like a witchcraft, it can make people lose their minds and pick up weapons to kill others under its command. However, every spell has its own antidote, and so does the war. In order for people to avoid a replay of the heartbroken memories, it is important for everyone to remember the deeply grieved histories of the war and also to cherish the peace that many people sacrificed their lives to achieve.