Night and Fog

Night and Fog (1955)

Genres - War, Historical Film  |   Sub-Genres - Politics & Government, Military & War  |   Run Time - 31 min.  |   Countries - France  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

An almost unbearably powerful film, Night and Fog is a shattering cinematic experience. Alain Resnais' documentary revisits his familiar theme of memory and its impact upon the present to provide an effective frame for the horrors that were perpetrated in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust. A beautiful blue sky may balance against a lovely field of green in the present, but underneath the colorful blend is the black-and-white despair captured in photographs and footage from when the camps were in use. Resnais keeps the narration steady and level, letting the words describe the atrocities but keeping the voice (courtesy of narrator Michel Bouquet) relatively calm. This "normal" vocal approach contrasts with the staggering brutality of the images, driving home the fact that while your eyes may wish to believe that such things happen only in the most perverse of imaginations, the voice reminds you that, no, it happened in real life. Resnais and writer Jean Cayrot force us, by gentle means, to confront the gruesomeness of this past, and make it more immediate and shocking by detailing how some of the remains of the murdered were later used (in the creation of products such as soap). Night is breath taking as film, revealing a masterful use of the medium by Renais, but it is of even greater importance as a document of the inhumanity that humans can be capable of.