Numerous films, both fictions and non-fictions, have tried portraying, analyzing and interpreting the grotesque monstrosity and primordial barbarism – borne out of xenophobia, right-wing bigotry, religious hatred, racial supremacism, ultra-nationalism and war hysteria – that Nazism represented and manifested through the Holocaust; unfortunately very few have truly been able to penetrate into its heart of darkness. Resnais’ extraordinarily powerful, haunting and gut-wrenching documentary Night and Fog remains an indelible example of the latter; that he did that through a surprisingly concise 30-minute length – perhaps representing the other side of the spectrum vis-à-vis Claude Lanzmann’s gargantuan Shoah (which, unfortunately, I’m yet to watch) – speaks further volumes about it. And, made a decade after the end of WWII and therefore liberation of German concentration and death camps thet were littered all across Europe, it was also perhaps among the earliest confrontations of this topic. Resnais, interestingly, took an arresting dual narrative approach which made it all the more atmospheric, viz. pairing eerily desolate and tranquil present of now deserted remnants of Auschwitz and Majdanek – which’ve ironically become tourist destinations – shot in Eastman colour; with harrowing war-time B/W footage and newsreels – of the ghastly camps, the watchtowers and barbed wires, the skeletal and dehumanized internees, their transportation in cattle cars, medical experimentation and tortures, executions and massacres, gas chambers and heaped corpses, turning men and women into mattresses and soaps, the remorseless perpetrators supervising the camps and later during war crime trials – from just ten years back. Couple of important footnotes – the script was written by Holocaust survivor Jean Cayrol, and aided by Chris Marker; and French censors forced Resnais to blot out the shot of a French guard which subtly revealed French complicity.
Director: Alain Resnais
Genre: Documentary/Political History/Short Film