Saturday, November 8, 2008

NIGHT AND FOG (Alain Resnais, 1955, France) A train chugs its way through the murk, human beings its inhumane cargo, the destination an Extermination Camp where showers deliver Zyklon B insecticide and the ovens burn paper-thin flesh and brittle bone, now obscured by the night and fog of history and diabolical revisionist propaganda. But Director Alain Resnais helps us to peer beyond this veil of darkness, to remove the blinders, to see through the gentle illusion of lush green fields and moldering structures. His documentary is only ten years removed from Hitler’s Final Solution and yet memory fades, the cruel tendrils of ignorance and insult still firmly grip the heart, and the burden of guilt denied by all involved and blame shifted to only a select few. Resnais utilizes a simple plot structure; he films amid the overgrown Death Camps of 1955 and crosscuts with archival images, these brutal horrors merge into our conscious minds and make us understand that this really happened, here at this particular place where the rusting wire fences, once full of electricity and jagged barbed wire, now rise like spines on the back of a sleeping demon. Though the stink of death has been removed from this charnel house, the horrors inflicted here are nonetheless real, the suffering bled into the very ground, and can never to be forgotten. Images of vacant gaunt faces, bloated corpses with bulging blind eyes, mountains of hair weaved into cloth, and a warehouse full of shoes and eyeglasses; each moving frame speaks 9 million words about the deep abattoir of the human soul, of those responsible who carried out the atrocities and those who let it happen. With the gentle yet firm narration, Resnais is concerned with the callous disregard for life that is pregnant within each one of us and must be acknowledged before it can be eradicated. We must understand that atrocities and aggression haunt our past, and this Holocaust is but one action among a history of violence. He asks, “Who is on the lookout from this strange tower to warn us of the coming of new executioners? Are their faces really that different from our own?” (A+)

1 comment:

Dead Pan said...

I had actually not heard much about this at all. I am really excited to see it now and am thinking of adding it to my marathon.