Film Review: Night and Fog
Nuit et Brouillard
There are many different documentaries about World War II which focus on the “Final Solution” and specifically about the horrors within the concentration camps. The 81st Blow (Bergman, 1975), Shoah (Lanzman, 1985) and Voices of the Children, (Justman, 1998) are just a few of the many dozens of films that delve into the causes and consequences of Hitler’s “Final Solution”.
All of these films have stories to tell and experiences to share; but one of the first that delved into the pits of the camps was Night and Fog.
French director Alain Resnais shot this 32-minute documentary a mere 10 years after the end of World War II. He used color footage from the only recently abandoned camps and intertwined it with historical propaganda clips (such as Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will) and footage taken by the Ally soldiers as they cleared camps and rescued captives.
It is a movie about remembering. Not just remembering the camps themselves, but showing how the people inside the camps existed: their homes, their jobs, their hospital and their eventual deaths.
The First 10 mins of Night and Fog
In showing this, the film allows the viewer to examine the Nazis actions and their thought processes. The film allows the world to have a little more insight into Nazi procedures, not just Nazi idealism.
In the short 32-minutes, Resnais asks moral questions about responsibility; a question the world was only beginning to answer in 1955. It is unbelievable how much Resnais was able to capture and convey in such a short film, but accomplished his goal in taking a moment in history and documenting it for posterity.
If you haven't seen this movie, take 32 minutes of your time and be prepared to be astounded, baffled and amazed all at the same time.
- The title of the film was taken from the words of the Nazi leader, Heinrich Himmler, in December 1941 who said that any opposition would vanish “into the night and fog”, presumably to the concentration camps.
- Note that the footage taken from wartime uses the present tense and the color, current footage uses the past tense. This sort of switch up lends itself to making the past an actuality of the present and therefore making it permanent.
- The concentration camps featured in the film are: Auschwitz, Birkenau, Majdanek, Struthof, and Mathausen
- The footage inside the camps was originally shot by detainees of the Westerbork internment camp, Netherlands and by the United States military. They were denied French, English and German footage.
- Director Resnais’ full name is Alain Pierre Marie Jean Georges Resnais. Try saying that 3 times fast in your best French accent.
- Resnais also directed the critically acclaimed, Hiroshima Mon Amor (1959).
- Jean Cayrol, a Catholic, was a member of the French Resistance, but was eventually betrayed and sent to Gusen concentration camp in 1943.
- Cayrol’s brother died in Oranienburg concentration camp.
- Michel Bouquet, who narrates the film, went on to act in many features films in France, most notably in 1982 as Inspecteur Javert in Les Misérables (Hossien).
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