by Laurent Kelly
Night and Fog – Director: Alan Resnais Screenplay: Jean Carol Starring: Michael Bouquet (narrator) Archive footage of Reinard Heyrich, Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Hitler and Julius Streicher
Night and Fog is a remarkable documentary for adopting a rare subtle approach to the Holocaust subject matter. This isn’t about a child crying two inches away from the camera or providing melodramatic images from the concentration camps. Rather it is a film which makes us think about a complex subject which requires deep thought.
A series of images and video clips are accompanied by a narrator who tells us the story of the Holocaust and it is the manner in which the story is told which is so impressive. Rather than attempting the impossible task of trying to encapsulate the entire horrible experience the documentary instead acknowledges the difficutly of this task by asking questions as opposed to trying to answer them. The camera trails through the places where the horror happened as the narrator struggles to imagine the terror that
took place there. Poetic language is used to try and sum up the thoughts of those who endured the horror but whenever it feels as if we are being given a representation of the event the documentary returns to the present and reestablishes the fact that the true nature of the Holocaust is impossible to comprehend.
The documentary also does a fantastic job of making the victims feel three-dimensional in a bid to show us see how families much like our own were so suddenly subjected to such torment. It is the sensitivty at the heart of the film and the awareness of the topic that makes Night and Fog such an incredible achivement.
DID YOU KNOW? The word Jew is barely used in the film. This is because Resnais wanted the documenary to reflect the inhumane nature of all wars and in particular to reflect on the French intervention in Algeria which was taking place at the time of the film’s release.