Night and Fog (1955)

"Night and Fog" is a film that I'd rather not review; in fact, I was planning on talking about the film and then refusing to grade it, simply because it would feel wrong and crass. But I have changed my mind, not because I feel differently; but because I realize that this is the road that I have chosen for myself. Any piece of art, in this case film, being offered up to the public lends itself the need for criticism. Not only to determine if the work is good or bad, but also to praise or condemn the work, warn viewers about it or encourage them to go see it, and to talk about it...simple as that. Any work of art demands a certain amount of words about it, your eyes will be opened up to more than one viewpoint and something incredible might happen—you might learn something. This isn't classroom learning, something about human nature may be revealed to you.
Perhaps this is what Alain Resnais's brutal Holocaust documentary is trying to accomplish. But I think that Resnais rightly knows almost nothing about why this horrible event happened and is asking the question why? Not only is he asking this question but he is warning future generations about the perils and horrors or war. Just because it happened once doesn't mean that it won't happen again. Resnais wants to show the horrid side of human nature as displayed in the Holocaust to show that we have been there once and to insure that we never return there.
As an idea and a message, it's impossible to critique "Night and Fog" and to do so is wrong, I feel.
But "Night and Fog" is not beyond critique, if that makes any sense. It is a movie and it has to be judged as one.
As far as documentaries go, "Night and Fog" is harsh and dark. The source material that it displays is so shocking that it is nauseatingly disturbing.
But there are elements of "Night and Fog" that don't work—namely the score. Gruesome photos appear on screen while a happy little score plunks away in the background. It's not intended to be ironic or freaky, it just doesn't work. The score is really the only thing that stood out to me as a blatant offense, it tries to hard to make an emotional impact. If the director believed in the viewer as he believes in his message he wouldn't have chosen to keep a score at all.
"Night and Fog" is haunting. Be warned if you choose to watch this, it might follow you for the rest of your life. Though the film only runs 30 minutes, it's frightening enough to last for an eternity.

Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4

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