Alain Resnais’ Night And Fog (Nuit Et Brouillard)

Alain Resnais’ Night And Fog (Nuit Et Brouillard)

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Optimum Home Entertainment

Release date: July 25th, 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 33 minutes

Year of production: 1955
Original language: French with English subtitles

Director: Alain Resnais
Writer: Jean Cayrol

Alain Resnais documentary is only 33 minutes in length but such is the scope of the journey he takes us on that there are no appropriate words to describe it. To call it “harrowing” doesn’t come close. To say that it’s a “sombre and eerie experience” doesn’t begin to do it justice.

Alternating between past and (then) present, Night And Fog is a confrontation of the horrors that took place in the now abandoned grounds of Auschwitz and Majdanek. It’s narrated by French actor Michel Bouquet and starts with the events of 1933, when the Nazi’s came into power.

Night And Fog (Nuit Et Brouillard)

It depicts how the nation swung into action building them in the same way a stadium or hotel was built. In nearby homes, schools and workplaces people had no idea of the new place that was being created for them.

The reality of the camps, despised by the people who built them, is unfathomable by those who will endure them. Once through the gates, above which are the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Brings Freedom), they are stripped, shaved, disinfected, uniformed and numbered. We see empty rooms, beds and fields. They’re empty because the people who occupied those spaces were part of the Third Reich’s Final Solution to a problem that only existed in the minds of mad men.

Night And Fog (Nuit Et Brouillard)

If they didn’t meet death in the gas chambers or ovens then they met it elsewhere, alone in a corner somewhere, out in the snow, the mud, the heat or the cold.

Lethal injections by SS doctors awaited those who were taken to buildings that looked like hospitals or surgeries where the sick might be offered a bed. Pointless operations, amputations and experimental mutations also awaited them. Hands bound as they were tested on with toxic products from chemical companies, castrated and burnt with phosphorus …the horrors go on and on in a never-ending nightmare at the hands of those who appointed themselves rulers of mankind’s fate.

Night And Fog (Nuit Et Brouillard)

Resnais shows us what life within these walls was like not only for those imprisoned in it, but also the SS officers, the Schutzstaffel. We see their quarters and villas, where they dined, entertained and they even kept a brothel where the women were better fed but were still doomed to meet the same end.

The camerawork is smooth and the editing here is flawless as it blends both past and present with black and white and colour footage and also still images. What we see is something so troubling, horrifying and grotesque that we should turn away, but we mustn’t.

Night And Fog (Nuit Et Brouillard)

Nothing here should be censored or shielded from our view because what Resnais has given us is an honest, real and emotional look at the truth of war; there are no winners. It makes us question the core of our humanity and why it was so easy for this happen while also making us ask if it could happen again. Indeed, there are similar camps and so called detention centres all around the world, and while we look back on the horrors of the Second World War we should also wonder what we’re doing about the horrors of today, now.

Night And Fog (Nuit Et Brouillard)

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