Thursday, January 07, 2016

Night and Fog

Directed and edited by Alain Resnais and written by Jean Cayrol, Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog) is a thirty-one minute documentary short that explores the grounds of Auschwitz where some of the most horrific atrocities in humanity is explored. The film serves as a look into the world of the Holocaust with recollections by prisoners as it is narrated by Michel Bouquet. The result is one of the most chilling and evocative documentaries about the Holocaust.

Shot in the span of an entire just a decade after the end of World War II, the film is a document into the grounds of Auschwitz as it is shown a decade after it was used as it looks like peaceful and calm. Yet, the fact that it is also the place where millions and millions of people were killed by Nazi Germany makes it a ghost town with a sense of unease over what this place was once was. The film is told in this mixture of past and present where Resnais and cinematographers Sacha Vierny and Ghislain Cloquet shoot Auschwitz circa-1955 in color where it looks like an abandoned park or factory with some ruins. At times, the colored photography makes it look sort of peaceful but once the camera gets inside with some unique tracking shots and camera movements. It is clear that is this unsettling ghost town.

When the film is presented in black-and-white, Resnais collects many archival and stock footage from various newsreels and such that documented what happened. What is revealed includes images that will definitely test viewers as much of it isn’t just uncomfortable to watch but it is also very intense due to the aura of death that looms throughout the film. Resnais’ editing doesn’t just capture many of the moments that occur through the images about what happens when a prisoner enters the camp but also what one would endure. Aided by Michel Bouquet’s editing that features text by Jean Cayrol and additional work by Chris Marker, the narration doesn’t just help drive the story but also go into great detail about what these people would endure. Featuring a somber and mesmerizing score by Hanns Eisler, the film has this very harrowing tone that is melancholic but also visceral in how eerie the images are as the music adds to that while having melodic moments that serve as offbeat.

Nuit et brouillard is an outstanding short documentary from Alain Resnais. Not only is it one of the most devastating and powerful documents about the Holocaust but an evocative statement into the atrocities on humanity by those driven by hate. In the end, Nuit et brouillard is a phenomenal film from Alain Resnais.

Alain Resnais Films: Hiroshima Mon Amour - Last Year at Marienbad - (Muriel) - (The War is Over) - (Je T’aime, je t’aime) - (Stavisky) - (Providence) - Mon Oncle d'Amerique - (Life is a Bed of Roses) - (Love Unto Death) - (Melo) - (I Want to Go Home) - (Gershwin) - (Smoking/No Smoking) - (Same Old Song) - (Not on the Lips) - (Private Fears in Public Places) - Wild Grass - (You Haven’t Seen Anything Yet) - (Life of Riley)

© thevoid99 2016


Kevin Powers said...

I recently watched this one myself. I bought the Criterion DVD on the cheap on Amazon for my wife for Christmas. She's a huge history buff (and American history teacher) and is on a big Holocaust kick right now. Books and docs all over our house.

This is profoundly beautiful and poetic, if utterly shocking, documentary. I really loved it. And I love the short format. So many Holocaust studies are long and drawn out. The pain of that era of history truly can be that much more powerful at 30 minutes.

thevoid99 said...

It is a must-see though there is still so much about the Holocaust to cover as I'm planning to watch Schindler's List next month while I really hope to do Shoah one of these days. Yet, this was just as intense for something that is just about 30 minutes.