Original release: 1955
Running time: 33 minutes
Country of origin: France
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, illness 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, generic viagra when the Nazi’s came into power.
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 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. 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.
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.
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.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .