Apr 5, 2011

Nuit et brouillard (1955) - night and fog, nacht und nebel

directed by Alain Resnais

'The title refers to a strategy instigated by Himmler in December 1941 that helped propagate the fear of the Third Reich. Anyone caught resisting the Nazi occupiers would be arrested and then immediately whisked off to the camps in such a way that they would vanish without a trace, "into the night and fog".' (IMDb)

We've all seen more films and documentaries about Holocaust than we can remember. It makes an effective and emotionally charged setting for fictional stories, and the documentaries always manage to shock you as the thought of such inhumane monstrosity makes you feel so utterly sad and disarmed. You'd think that at some point people would just become numb and start grow indifferent as the endless stream of those initially shocking images began to loose their power and true meaning (the same way we get numbed by media violence and horror movies etc). And I guess that's true to some extent, but some images in Night and Fog managed shock me, I dare say, in a way nothing Holocaust-related has ever shocked me before. (Well, I guess there is still one image more shocking... It was irreversibly etched in the back of my head some years ago and I don't even wish to discuss it.)

Many things make Night and Fog the intense experience as it is. Its running time is only 30 minutes, and I more or less wept the whole thing through. It rabidly and bluntly introduces us to the senseless horror that made 'Auschwitz' one of the most notoriously regocnizable and meaningful names in history. A voiceover provides us with some facts and also helps set up the atmosphere, but, like in most cases, showing is much more powerful than telling. Never before I remember seeing images of such piles of human beings, or what used to be human beings, but have now diminished into something that only remotely resembles what they once were. It's nightmare-ish, really, and won't leave you anytime soon. And it shouldn't.

What adds to the special nature of the film is, of course, that it was made and published so soon after the actual events. It was one of the first films to openly discuss Holocaust. It's weird and a bit haunting to think that when the film came out, so many of the concentration camp survivors were still alive, the nightmare still fresh in their minds. What is more, so were the German soldiers, 'the Machine', all the individuals that made it all happen.

Night and Fog is the second highest rated documentary on IMDb (the highest rated is a 2010 documentary about a Formula One driver. Er, random?) and the placing is deserved. The film also sparked my interest towards other work of the director Alain Resnais. I wish soon to see Hiroshima mon amour, to begin with... But first, today, I think I'll finally rewatch Schindler's List. It's been sitting on my shelf, gathering dust, long enough.

(I'll next go out to the beautiful early-spring sunshine and walk to gym, to my Zumba lesson... I guess jumping around hyperactively will feel somewhat weird today... And mostly just stupid.)

(It did.)

"Who is responsible?"


Anonymous said...

Loved this~
The film is to me every bit as shocking and important as it seems it now is to you.
I was mesmerized by the ever-advancing movement of the camera in the camp. It feels as inevitable as death was for people chosen to the camp.

As you make note, it's so short that everyone should just watch it (if I was a teacher... :)).
What happened then will happen again if we don't pay attention. This film is for that simple reason, so that we don't forget.

I can highly recommend anything by Alain Resnais. He was part of the new wave gang who revolutionised the whole cinematic language. I especially love "Hiroshima Mon Amour" and "Last Year in Marienbad". They're still pretty wild in their structure ^_^.

Eeva said...

(Aw man, just finished watching Schindler's List and the bonus material... My head feels a bit heavy from all the crying. I bet the film didn't affect me this much when I first I saw it, years ago... I'm getting old, or something.)

Agreed, this should be shown in every school, I can't think of a much better way to learn the lesson about Holocaust. (Maybe visiting an actual concentration camp, but sure, that's not a posibility for everyone.) I did some minor research on IMDb and apparently they do still show it in some schools. And the effect seems to have been as powerful as it should!

Thanks for the recommendations! I'll try to get my hands on those two. :)