9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Disturbing, educational and powerful,
This review is from: Night And Fog [DVD] (DVD)
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?