Runstedler’s DVD Pick of the Month: Nuit et brouillard (aka Night and Fog)

I was reading about Current 93’s influences and I ran across this classic film. Alain Resnais’ 1955 documentary Nuit et brouillard (aka Night and Fog) is incredibly difficult to watch at times. It accounts for the atrocities committed in the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. What I respect most about Resnais’ documentary is its unflinching portrait of the horrors that were committed. Resnais believes that the audience should be exposed to the truth, no matter how gruesome it may be. He begins with a narrative and shows shots of the abandoned camp in 1955 and its interior. Then, he takes us further back in time, using real footage reels to reenact how the prisoners lived their day to day lives. Resnais’ account pays meticulous attention to detail. He surpasses the usual accounts of concentration camp lore and delves into the heart of what happened during those dark, turbulent years in Auschwitz. He shows what happened to these people, how their skin was used for the Nazis’ perverse experiments, how the bodies were emaciated to extreme states before they died horrible deaths, and explores and dissects the countless acts of barbarism committed by the national socialist regime.

It’s difficult to explain how traumatizing and touching Resnais’ film is in words, but I think that everyone should see this film, whether they can stomach the graphic footage or not. This is history and it’s a testament of the darkness that humanity is capable of attaining. We must learn to overcome, especially in our postmodern age where a sense morality is becoming more and more obsolete. I don’t want too spoil much of the film. The beauty of YouTube in this regard is that it houses the film in its entirety, and it can be watched in three parts. In the case of Nuit et brouillard, you have to see everything to truly understand the Holocaust for what it was and is. Resnais’ film is a searing indictment against the crimes that were committed, and it is a microcosm of the suffering that everyone endured during war’s most sinister hour. You emerge from Nuit et brouillard with shock and awe and a fuller understanding about something you thought you knew everything about. Nuit et brouillard exposes the bare facts of what happened, revealing the very marrow and bone of those moments of everlasting horror carved into the human psyche. In understanding darkness, we can create light for ourselves. Resnais’ descent into darkness ultimately offers us the possibility of revision and change for better.

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