The Holocaust - two words forever etched on the consciousness
of mankind. They resound in our minds like an implacable condemnation from a
Celestial power, for a crime which rips the heart and soul out of man's
moral purpose. Not
just killing, but meticulously planned and executed slaughter on an industrial scale.
Men, women and children, young and old, rounded up,
humiliated and butchered, like a cull of diseased cattle.
How could it have happened? What evil entered the mind of Man and drove him
to this act of ultimate depravity? Those who suffered may have
left our world, but the evidence remains - writings and images that are a
stark reminder to future generations of where hatred for one's
fellow man can lead. It must not happen again. We must never forget.
Commissioned by the French Committee for the History of the Second World War, Nuit
is widely recognised as the film which provides the most potent depiction
of the horrors of the Holocaust. Even knowing about the atrocities committed in
the Nazi concentration camps is not enough to prepare you for the trauma of watching this
Nuit et brouillard
is simply one of the most poignant and shocking pieces of cinema
ever created. It is all the more effective for its subdued style of presentation,
as sombre and as restrained as a documentary on any other subject. In contrast to
what you might expect, there is hardly any emotion in the film's narration.
Yet it is a film which has an immense emotional impact on its spectator.
The film was directed by Alain Resnais, who earned a great reputation for his short documentaries
in the 1940s and 1950s before emerging as a prominent director of the Nouvelle Vague,
with such films as Hiroshima,
(1959) and L'Année
dernière à Marienbad
(1961). Whilst Nuit et Brouillard
is rigorously framed as a documentary, it shows the stamp of its director very clearly,
particularly his technique for merging past and present, suggesting the importance of
memory in our waking consciousness.
Subdued colour photography of the now deserted concentration camps is inter-cut with harrowing
archive footage depicting the fate of the deportees. The film is telling us that
behind the 'banality' of our collective recollection of World war II, there lies a horror
of unspeakable inhumanity that is scarcely imaginable.
The film ends with a simple question. Who is responsible for this?
Perhaps we, the succeeding generations, are, if ever we forget the lesson of the Holocaust.
© James Travers
I saw this film in high school and I have never forgotten it. These
true images will stay in your mind forever. The horrible atrocities of
the Holocaust are all here. And for anyone that thinks it didn't happen
- this movie shows it all, while it happened, and you can't deny
that. Every 12th grade student should see it... so it doesn't
happen again. 5 stars.
© Leasa (Maryland) 2008
The above article was written for filmsdefrance.com and should not be reproduced in any medium without the author's permission.
Other recommended documentary films from France that you may want to consider are: Nicolas Philibert's Être et avoir
Sébastien Lifshitz's Les invisibles
Raymond Depardon's Profils paysans: l'approche
Raymond Depardon's Profils paysans: la vie moderne
Chris Marker's Les Statues meurent aussi