on 25 February 2004
Even though this is a very short film it is extremely powerful. it shows the horrors of the camps that are not often mentioned by Auschwitz survivors in their books.
The film shows how women's hair was made into rolls of material, human skin into paper and bones boiled down for glue.
It also shows the nail marks on the ceiling of the gas chambers where people had tried to claw there way out. The film is not a ghoulish look at the horrors of concentration camps, rather a very important documentary that all should see. On the back of the box it notes that after a spate of anti-semitism all French television channels cut their listings on the same evening and showed this film instead.
The commentary is in French but the sub titles are in English and as I was unable to tear my eyes away from the screen anyway I didn't find this a problem at all.
Night and fog is somewhat like a brief beginners guide to 'real' holocaust documentaries that avoid the usual pathos of films and instead simply lay bare the facts and leave you to your own feelings on what you've seen rather than bludgeon you with sentiment.
First off dont let the short running time put you off, Resnais achieves more in 30 minutes than hollywoods finest can achieve in 2.5 hours. very brief interview clips and original footage are rapidly spliced together to form a whole picture that lingers in the mind long after the final credits. Resnais illustrates how less is so much more as he uses every second he has to show the sheer horror of the camps.I return to watch again and again and still keep finding details I missed.
Having been made so close to the end of the war this has a resonance of a world still shocked by what it saw.
watch this, think about it and after taking a deep breath move on to 'the sorrow and the pity' dvd and then ' shoah'.
just remember that documentaries, even the most open minded, show you what they want you to see and those interviewed tell you only what they want you to hear. so watch as wide a variety as you can before making your own mind up.
on 31 May 2011
Whilst this is a 'short' film, running at only 30 minutes, it packs an incredible and potent image of the abuse of power; the abuse of ideas which were perpetuated at the beginning of the 20th century, and interpreted for sinister and horrific purposes. Night and Fog displays the horrors of the holocaust, and leaves indelible images that will never leave your mind.
The film opens with the derelict remains of 1950's Auschwitz. A narrator (Michel Bouquet) poetically describes the haunted emptiness of the area, a place were no person enters, but the ghosts of genocide still hang in the air, putrefying the very essence of place. Night and Fog mixes both the contemporary images of Auschwitz with documentary footage filmed by the Allied troops as they entered the grounds where thousand of malnourished, dead people lay strewn about; haunted death masks of anguish, hunger and desperation. The film shows the perversion of the Nazi's, with their seeming obsession with collecting every single element left by all the Jews, homosexuals and disabled dead. We see mountains of glasses, shoes, clothes, and even hair, kept for the records of a moment in history most would like to forget.
But, this is a moment in human history that we should never forget, for as we are told, this is something that happened and therefore it can happen again. (Which of course it did in both Cambodia and Bosnia in the 1970's and 1990's respectively). Toward the end of the film, the narrator poses the significant question - after we are shown Nazi officers in the dock stating that they are "not responsible" - 'who is responsible'? No single person can be held accountable for systematic torture, humiliation and ultimately death on people not seen to fit into a socio-political ideology of racial 'purification'.
Another film released 30 years later, also used the haunting images of the derelict concentration camps, but did not documentary imagery of the starving, abused prisoners. Claude Lanzmann's landmark film Shoah (1985) used interviews with survivors, members of the public who lived around these camps, and even Nazi officers to encapsulate a similar amount of pathos for the 'horrible' history. At a mammoth 9 and a half hours, it is quite surprising to find the 30 minute Night and Fog contain as much (perhaps even more) power to disturb and to (in a way) educate the spectator.
It really drives home the message that this is something that has happened before, and will certainly happen again. We are left with images of death. The camera pans across piles of dead people - something that clearly influenced Stan Brakhage's film of death and pathology, The Act of Seeing With Ones Own Eyes (1971). We are left with a strong message. One that we should heed. For, if we were to see such horrors on our own doorstep, would we turn a blind eye, as so many did during this period. Of course we should not. But it seems to be human nature to glance the other way when horrors occur. How many of us can say that if we see someone in distress in the street at the hands of human violence, would get involved? And if this were turned into violence on a mass scale, would we intervene?
on 18 January 2006
'Night and Fog' is an astounding documentary on the hideous events of the Holocaust. Although only thirty minutes long, it nevertheless provides an excellent and moving account of Auschwitz.
Its 'beauty' lies in its simplicity - there is no drama or sensationalism. It depicts the Holocaust simply as it was, using original footage as a testimony to the unprecedented horror. The commentary is equally excellent in its simplicity and clarity, and compliments perfectly the moving and heart-wrenching images. What makes the documentary great is its power to shock, to make the viewer utterly unable to understand how such industrialised inhumanity could ever occur in a civilised and cultured nation. It also illustrates the immense scale of the genocide, and the total dehumanisation of the victims, whose skinny, lifeless corpses are used as an economic resource for Nazi Germany - to make cloth, to make soap, even to make 'art'. 'Night and Fog' is superb in its depiction of the modern, bureaucratised, and production-line nature of Nazi genocide.
Made in 1955, 'Night and Fog' shows the Holocaust as it was before much scholarly debate had begun. It shows us simply what happened, leaving us with utter incomprehension as to why it happened. Seeing original footage, it makes us wonder what was going through the minds of the perpetrators. Did they really believe that what was being done was in the name of progress? Did they feel any pity? Did they enjoy what they were doing? 'Night and Fog' captures the inability to comprehend how such unspeakable horrors occurred, and does not pretend to have any answers for why the Holocaust could have happened.
At a time when the Holocaust is fading from public memory, I think this documentary should be watched by all. I do not understand why moving and explicit documentaries like this are not broadcast on Holocaust Memorial Day. Perhaps by showing the Nazis' totally repugnant disregard for human life, we can achieve man's new categorical imperative - to never again allow Auschwitz to happen.
on 23 November 2012
Vital evidence proving the holocaust, from the film footage of huge crowds of mostly jews at the rail depots, to the photos of dead jews as they open the train doors at the death camps, then even more the film of huge crowds in a 'holding area' at the camp, then most of all the photos of huge crowds of naked jews moments before entering the gas chamber. also horrific photos of decapitated heads in buckets, people stacked in pyres before and after burning, and the gas chambers themselves. vital, vital, vital, worth a million schindlers listzs, after this buy Lanzmanns SHOAH
on 9 February 2011
This is a powerful and painful to watch testament of man's inhumanity to man. As the camera follows a path through a derelict and empty Auschwitz you are reminded of what took place here. Combined with the now familiar footage of mass graves of emaciated bodies this film defines what must never happen again.
Yes. Modern audiences are desensitised because they have been over-exposed to cartoonish, dumbed-down violence, but what you see in this film is agonising because it is real. I don't believe we should become so 'desensitised' that we cannot understand what is real anymore.
So much is achieved in the short running time of thirty minutes. You will go back to this film again and think about it for a long time afterwards. It haunts the soul. If you think it is too confronting, then remember that the suffering and death of those many thousands that died in Auschwitz and all the other death camps must never be forgotten.
The intention of this film is not to dehumanise anyone. It speaks for those who suffered and died in such agony and they deserve to have a voice.
on 7 August 2010
A 30 minute documentary by Alain Resnais which outlines the extent of the Holocaust. Within this short space of time, using documentary footage, you are simply left with no words to say. Such is the impact of this film - haunting, heart rendering and ultimately thought provoking.
This should be viewed by all as a summary to the extent to which humanity can reach. The images of the concentration alone are powerful and emotive.
I watched this video as a follow-up to The Sorrow and the Pity. Resnais film is disturbing because it presents the building of the camps as a series of practical steps, fixing on the design of the buildings, the industries that were interested in using the labour, way the camps were laid out, how the people got there. The fact that they had orchestras and brothels. What they did with the by-products. What sort of medical experiments they performed.
It's a beautifully crafted documentary, my only reservation is that watching these things is so upsetting. I live on my own and absorbing this material can depress me for days. How much should we expose ourselves to these 'horrors'?
on 6 March 2001
This is the classic account of Hitler's concentration camps and the appalling conditions in them. Filmed shortly after the war ended and interviewing camp inmates, etc. it is widely accepted as the best documentary on the subject ever made.
on 7 July 2012
This is a searing film made at a time when the Holocaust was not being widely discussed following the horrifying initial liberation of the death camps. At 31 minutes in length and in black and white it is a collosus of understatement. It does not moralise but allows the viewer to witness the emptiness of humanity to deflect or change outcomes such as Auschwitz and Majdanek. This was made in the year I was born. I often reflect that of all the lives that went through camps many remain unknown. Stories of lives that have never been told or acknowledged. The Germans and their collaborators in what ever part they played in creating this depersonalised death machine/apparatus wiped lives out without questioning their morality in doing so. Alan Resnais is correct. We learned very little from the Holocaust, insufficent to prevent other genocides. It is a significant memorial, sad but fitting for the plethora of films, books and stories that have followed. I strongly recommend it as a means of reflection on why maintaining and acting on our collective decency in the world of 2012 is so important.