Night and Fog (Nuit et brouillard)

Night and Fog

War nods off to sleep, but keeps one eye open.

In lieu of a regular-length entry (or in this upcoming case, a longer one), I instead elected to go with one of my remaining short films, as I wasn’t up to anything longer. I ended up choosing Night and Fog, a short film about the concentration camps of WWII. Talk about a pick-me-up. I wasn’t aware that Night and Fog was directed by Alain Resnais, director of Hiroshima Mon Amour, until I started the film; somehow, looking through the Book several times and skimming the entry for this one wasn’t enough for me to catch that bit of info. Really, I’m not sure if that factoid, that one of the front-runners in the upcoming French New Wave would have directed this war short, colored my perceptions of the film at all, but one thing was for sure; my perceptions were colored in some way. It’s hard to watch this film, even at just over a half hour, with all its footage of the atrocities committed at places like Auschwitz, or rather the remains of what had happened, both then and now.

The film paints a portrait of the concentration camps, specifically Auschwitz, and the various horrors that took place there. Sure, it’s a topic that’s been done to death, but one must remember that this was made in the 1950s, and is likely part of the progenitor genre that has led to the topic being done to death. If one puts oneself in that mindset, Night and Fog reveals itself to have a brutal power to it; it minces no words, and especially no images. The film flips between black-and-white still photos of the camps as they were when they were active, complete with desolation and death abundant, and color footage of the camps as they are now (or were in the 1950s), abandoned wrecks of what once was regarded as the antithesis of humanity. Resnais knows when to shift between the two, creating a simple but effective narrative to an even simpler end purpose: to make sure that no one, anywhere or at any time, will ever forget what took place here. And as I’ve said before, thanks to its simplicity, it succeeds immeasurably.

This is a pretty easy recommendation, even with the film’s rather unbearable reminder of just what the human race is capable of doing to each other, but that is exactly the point; we need to be reminded of this, lest we find ourselves doing it again under the auspices of justification. It’s hard to think of ourselves ever doing anything this horrible again, but you never know what the public will cry for under the right motivation or propaganda. This film is a great and constant barometer of how we need to hold ourselves against the measuring stick of history, and it is precisely because it is so horrifying that makes it so important. I can easily see how this was labeled a must see experience, not because it’s amazing or stellar in quality or content, but because of its sheer weight and historical significance. Night and Fog accomplished in 32 minutes what Shoah took over 9 hours to do, and for that, it’s pretty damn impressive, and deserves at least a once-over on your part.

Arbitrary Rating: 8/10

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