Night and Fog

Night and Fog

4.0 7
Director: Alain Resnais

Cast: Alain Resnais, Michel Bouquet

     
 

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One only wishes that Alain Resnais' documentary on the Holocaust, Night and Fog were longer, but even at a scant 31 minutes, this powerful short film details plenty about the horror of that terrible period of time. Now on DVD from Criterion, the disc also leaves the viewer wishing for a little more. The image, which is full-frame (it was not shot widescreen),

Overview

One only wishes that Alain Resnais' documentary on the Holocaust, Night and Fog were longer, but even at a scant 31 minutes, this powerful short film details plenty about the horror of that terrible period of time. Now on DVD from Criterion, the disc also leaves the viewer wishing for a little more. The image, which is full-frame (it was not shot widescreen), varies based on the source material. The footage shot in 1955 of the concentration camp grounds looks as good as if it was filmed today, yet the stock footage from 20 years earlier certainly shows its age. All things considered, the transfer is still quite good; at least as good as it can be. The mono soundtrack in French is the one originally used in theaters, and as expected, is perfectly adequate for this type of film. The narration is clear, as is the haunting score from Hanns Eisler, which is also included by itself on a separate audio track. Unfortunately, the subtitles are white, and disappear against the background at times. What is lacking with this title is significant supplemental material. Criterion, known for adding as much as they can, must not have had much at their disposal, as all that's included are biographies of the main crew members and a radio broadcast about this film (running only around five minutes) that Resnais gave in 1994. Regardless, this film's historical impact makes up for any deficiencies.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
An almost unbearably powerful film, Night and Fog is a shattering cinematic experience. Alain Resnais' documentary revisits his familiar theme of memory and its impact upon the present to provide an effective frame for the horrors that were perpetrated in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust. A beautiful blue sky may balance against a lovely field of green in the present, but underneath the colorful blend is the black-and-white despair captured in photographs and footage from when the camps were in use. Resnais keeps the narration steady and level, letting the words describe the atrocities but keeping the voice (courtesy of narrator Michel Bouquet) relatively calm. This "normal" vocal approach contrasts with the staggering brutality of the images, driving home the fact that while your eyes may wish to believe that such things happen only in the most perverse of imaginations, the voice reminds you that, no, it happened in real life. Resnais and writer Jean Cayrot force us, by gentle means, to confront the gruesomeness of this past, and make it more immediate and shocking by detailing how some of the remains of the murdered were later used (in the creation of products such as soap). Night is breath taking as film, revealing a masterful use of the medium by Renais, but it is of even greater importance as a document of the inhumanity that humans can be capable of.

Product Details

Release Date:
06/24/2003
UPC:
0037429180822
Original Release:
1955
Rating:
NR
Source:
Criterion
Presentation:
[B&W]
Sound:
[Dolby Digital Mono]
Time:
0:31:00

Special Features

New high-defintion digital transfer, with restored image and sound; Excerpt from an audio interview with Alain Resnais, from Les Étoiles du Cinéma (1994); Optional isolated music track; New essay about the film by Phillip Lopate; Essay about composer Hanns Eisler by Russell Lack; Crew profiles written by film historian Peter Cowie; New and improved English subtitle translation

Cast & Crew

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Credits [1:36]
2. Building the Camps [6:19]
3. "Another Planet" [7:58]
4. "Man Is Resilient" [4:01]
5. Extermination [8:39]
6. "Who Is Responsible?" [3:15]

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Night and Fog 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of my two favorite films, Nuit et brouillard speaks the unspeakable. It recalls me as a child seeing for the first time those images that could not be what they were but were what they were. With commentary in French, the least mystical of languages, color footage of decaying camps mixed with those impossible realities haunt consciousness. Nothing could be or is the same. One has to put the film into historical context. One has to explore the history, but the images make the history eternally immediate. I contrast this brief documentary with Marcel Ophuls' somewhat dissimilar five-hour documentary Memory of Justice. One leaves the later film cleansed one can never leave the former without the taste of dust and ashes that linger forever on the palette. Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast is the other of my two favorite films. Somehow, it makes sense to me to pair them. I do not understand why.This is a film that transcends the easy nonsense of too much criticism.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I teach high school English, and this video is the perfect compliment to any unit on the Holocaust. It is a breath-taking work that is the perfect mix of art and truth. The short video walks you through the shocking footage and information telling you the story of the death camps piece by piece, in just the right speed, so you are able to handle all the grim realities without being systematically overloaded. A poignant piece that really is educational and informative. The music provides the perfect background. Do not let the French narration intimidate you, the subtitles are great.
poughkeepsiejohn More than 1 year ago
When Alain Resnais directed "Night And Fog", World War II had ended ten years earlier. However, the worst memory of that war, namely The Holocaust, had barely been broached upon, despite the fact that twelve million people died in the concentration camps. "Night And Fog" was perhaps the first movie ever made about the Holocaust. It does not use any footage from German newsreels, which shows that not everybody was ready to face up it to yet. But Resnais and his filmmakers were. Resnais became one of the major celebrities of The French New Wave cinematic movement of the 1950's, which gave us Francious Trauffaut. Chris Marker, who also became a prominent filmmaker, worked as an assistant director on this film. And Jean Cayrol, who spent time in the concentration camps and survived, wrote the narration. It is told in a numb, forlorn fashion, which only gives "Night And Fog" a more heartbreaking edge. Even Georges Delerue's poignant musical score is a hallmark. The filmmakers simply let their cameras walk around a decayed and abandoned concentration camp (Cayrol says, "No footstep is heard but ours") mixed with some photos and newsreel footage. We see that the prison is almost like an empty city, complete with a brothel, a police department and a hospital; Cayrol mentions "The vents did not muffle the cries for help." Though the camps were made to look like normal prisons, unspeakable evil flourished in these places. Like any great documentarian, Resnais lets the images speak for themselves. Such as the emaciated prisoners in the Nazi hospital being used as medical guinea pigs. Or the warehouse of all of the prisoners' belongings---clothes, shoes, books, eyeglasses, everything was there. The Nazis even kept locks of hair so high that it looks like a mountain. It's hard not to look at that and not feel emotional. Most of the footage here is hard to take, even for those who are aware of the subject. Resnais also shows footage of the Nazi trials after the war with ex-Nazis, none of whom claim any shred of responsibility. But Resnais counters that making us watch the unwatchable---horrific images of twisted bodies in a mass grave---while Cayrol asks, "Who is responsible, then?" "Night And Fog" only runs for thirty minutes. Yet, you'll remember it forever.
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