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Night and Fog (Nuit et Bruillard)

The most devastating half-hour of film you'll ever see

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating

By Jurgen Fauth

Night and Fog (Nuit et Brouillard)
If DVDs were sold like potatoes, weighed in dollars per minute, Alain Resnais' "Night and Fog" would seem like a bad deal: for your hard earned money, you get all of 31 minutes of movie. But before you run off to invest in "Cleopatra" or "The Postman" instead, consider that every minute of "Night and Fog" has an impact unrivaled in the history of film.

The impact, of course, is not entirely for Resnais to claim. After all, no topic comes with more weight than the Holocaust. The footage you are seeing has literally been bought with the blood and tears of millions. Compared to the deluge of Holocaust movies that came after it -- from "Schindler's List," "Shoah," to "The Piano" -- "Night and Fog" drives its points home with unparalleled boldness. Rarely has a half hour of anything left me this devastated.

Only ten years after the end of World War II, Alan Resnais initially declined the offer to film what was to become the first documentary (or "essay film," as Philip Lopate calls it) on the Nazi's death camps. Only when camp survivor Jean Cayrol agreed to write the narration did Resnais take on the project.

Resnais filmed color footage of the empty, overgrown concentration camps Auschwitz and Majdanek and juxtaposed it with historical black and white images. Set to a powerful score by composer Hanns Eisler, a surprisingly flat narration guides us through the construction of the camps to their development into full-blown death factories.

The matter-of-fact approach to the incomprehensible suffering does not pretend to understand the scope of the murder: the heaps of corpses, silenced forever, speak for themselves.

The Criterion release of "Night and Fog" comes with a brief audio interview with Resnais, and two essays.

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