270 of 276 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2000
I first saw "Night and Fog" in a 16mm format when I was a senior in high school in 1970. So powerful and devastating was the imagery of this extraordinary short documentary, that it took me another 30 years to be able to watch other films on the Holocaust, such as "Schindler's List." When I saw "Night and Fog," I said to myself, "No other film needs to be made about the Holocaust. This is the definitive film." The stark, black and white images are devastating and powerful. In reading about the availability the film on video, I was astonished to see that the film had been made in 1955, so soon after the war. In the ensuing 45 years, it has lost none of its potency. For me, this is still the film that set the standard for all subsequent work on the Holocaust. Resnais' treatment of this subject will still burn the images right onto your retina.
I have since seen other films depicting the Holocaust, including "Schindler's List" and "Life is Beautiful," both of which were excellent. But "Night and Fog" is still the one work that will shake you to your marrow. I visited the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem in the late 70's, and the emotional experience was identical to and of the same wrenching caliber as watching "Night and Fog."
Truth is truth. We need to look at it, even when it would be more comfortable to turn away. Thank God someone like Resnais had the courage to tell the truth of the Holocaust in a ruthless and inescapable way that holds us all accountable. "Night and Fog" should give us all the courage to call evil by its name out loud when we see it, and to stand together to stop it.
This should be required viewing for everyone.
81 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2000
I can't quite explain the intensity and the power this film contains.
We talk about the Holocaust, we hear 6 million jews died, 12 million total, we may even see a film like Life is Beautiful, which scratches the surface to what went on inside the camps.
But nothing can prepare you for the sheer mindshattering power of this film.
It is a brief, stark film, shot in black and white and goes on for only a halfhour.
But instead of adding dramatic flourishes, or light intonations, it simply shows images of the horror that was the Holocaust. A musical score flows throughout the background as you are hit with an assault of image after image of what went on behind the camp gates.
You can watch the goriest film with practices 100x as bizarre, but they wont disturb you nearly as much as seeing an entire storeroom filled with hair cut off from the victims of this atrocity or pictures of human beings that stand there as mere skeletons.
The narrator shows incredible constraint in his tone and his line of comments. He simply provides a framework for the images and probes the viewer, "Why did this happen? How could we allow this to go on?"
Not for young children.
It stays with you. If it doesn't disturb you, if it doesn't deeply affect you, you may have to question the depth of your humanity.
70 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2000
They showed us 'Night and Fog' in school. I was 13. It hit me like a bag of bricks then as it does now. It's one thing to read a schoolbook that says there were 'atrocities'. It is quite another to see piles of hair, gold teeth, wedding rings, shoes piled high and to realize all their owners were already dead. Seeing for the first time the reality of hunger on a human being, seeing piled bodies. I had nightmares then, and I have them now. Several students left, sickened. We were all stunned....they had to send us all home. For about a week we just could not function in the, what we now realized, lavish American lifestyle. We never felt safe again. We had seen hell. I believe the librarian was fired for showing us this film at such a young age. I am 32 now, and it has never left me, this film...and its horrors.
97 of 101 people found the following review helpful
Alain Resnais's short, lasting a mere 31 minutes, is justifably famous as the first film to explore the Holocaust after the Second World War (it was released in 1955). More than just a depiction of the events, the film primarily concerned with the filmmaker's inability to convey the historical reality of the event. The colorful scenes Resnais shot of the abandoned camps are contrasted with horrific black-and-white images of Nazi brutality - decapitated skulls gathered in a bucket, a mountain of womens' hair, the living skeletons of the newly-liberated camps - and Resnais asks himself (and us): how can we possibly comprehend, in the safety of being a spectator, the immeasurable inhumanity and suffering of this event? What would it profit us or history as a whole even if we could? Would it really prevent human atrocities from recurring?
The film is best seen as a philosophical exploration rather than a history lesson - indeed, if you don't know at least the key events of the Nazi Regime, you'll find Resnais' elisions confusing. It is still a potent and unsettling film and, within its mere 31 minutes, opened up questions about artistic responsibility and representation that persist today about the Holocaust and other filmed depictions of human atrocities.
50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2006
I am an educator who, as part of a state-mandated curriculum, instructs high school sophomores in literary unit surrounding Elie Wiesel's Night. Often, the students have "knowledge" of the concentration and labor camps and for some, a bit of previous education in the history surrounding WWII and specifically, the Holocaust. But the biggest struggle I faced in leading this unit was not in the comprehension of the details, but in their ability to truly understand, to feel what must be felt when the topic is to be examined through Wiesel's eyes.
I can tell my students of a car accident, I can describe a car accident to them. Some may have even seen one in real life. But only those who have been IN one can truly relay an account of its impact, and even then, those people stand somewhat alone in the magnitude of their own account.
This film, born in 1955, ensures that anyone who speaks of the Holocaust will not stand alone in his or her experience. I do not censor the film; its beauty is in its 31-minute glory.
The camps WERE disgusting. They WERE disturbing. And what makes this film worthy of those two words is that it shows the camps in a light true to their existance. Unlike many accounts (and yes, even the "great" ones like Schindler's List) is that they often leave people feeling reactions toward only the story told. This film does not tell a story; it gives no promise of imparting a neatly packaged historic explination of events. It examines nothing; but it shows everything.
This film is vision. And viewers leave with the kind of knowledge obtained when a person experiences something firsthand. It doesn't teach fact, it conveys feeling. It envokes reaction, sometimes violent.
But to show the camps as anything less than graphic, disturbing, disgusting, haunting and harrowing would fail to tell the story at all.
My students hate the film when they see it, though most make no reaction until they see the bulldozers. There is always silence afterward. And with an unexplainable tenderness, they devour Night, often referring back to this film. It allows any further information they receive on the topic (in my class or in their history courses) to really have meaning. This film ensures that other stories, like Schindler's List and Night, will have the impact that can fade with decades of forgetfulness and ignorance.
I shudder to think that this movie could ever be received in any way other than negatively; that is its very intent. You are not to be entertained. You are not to have knowledge or fact confirmed. The agenda of this film is to disturb you, to make your stomach sink and your soul ache. You are not supposed to "forget" ever seeing it; it is supposed to stay with you longer than you could have ever dreamed it would.
Dark is humanity when fictional slasher movies are more accepted than nonfiction archivals.
63 of 68 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 1999
I first saw this film in a high school history class 20 years ago, before the subject was at all topical or widely-studied. "Night and Fog" I felt was the perfect title - "Night" because it was the darkest period in human history, and "Fog" because it showed us how the rest of the world was blinded to the abject horror of the concentration camps. Later movies and documentaries have never come close to the impact of this film for the reason that the directors have not had the stomach Alain had to use the actual Nazi footage from dachau, bergen belsen and other locations. That is what makes this film so shocking - it's real, not dramatized. No film library of WW2 is complete without it.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
I'm sure I'll watch "Night and Fog" many times inasmuch as I purchased the DVD. However, I write my review based on my first impressions. This is a short film running just 1/2 hour. The visual aspects of the movie are what we expect to be the impressions we'll remember and, for me, that was the case. Yet the accompanying verbal essay says a lot as well. I suspect that I will gather more and more from the essay in future repeated viewings. I will eventually absorb all of the English subtitles (including the number of subtitles that obscured themselves so well into the picture that I couldn't always make them out). However, it will be the photographic essay that continues to be the compelling narrator.
I previewed this film with my 13 year-old son whose class was about to study the Holocaust. "You might as well find out the truth" I told him and I expected that he would be nauseated by what was going to pass before his eyes. Yet the visual story was gradual and intermixed with (then) modern day scenes from Auschwitz. I noticed that the time was flying by and still none of the real horrors had yet been seen. Eventually, the pictures told the truth about what man can do to his fellow humans when he is left with only his hate and technology. There was no need to overdo the gruesomeness; the pictures we saw were enough. It wasn't until the movie was over that I understood the director's purpose. The Holocaust did not begin with genocide; it culminated with genocide. Michel Bouquet brings us along gradually and chronologically into the horror. We know what's coming and, dare I say this, what we see through the first two thirds of the movie was not so bad. Was this how it was to live in the lap of mass murder; things may not have seemed right but, then again, they didn't seem so wrong either. People were labelled, then confined, then imprisoned, then punished, then executed, then destroyed. If you bought into the firtst step, was it not possible to follow for a few more steps? I thought that this aspect was the greatness of "Night and Fog" and it struck me as all the more effective because Bouquet did it in just 31 minutes.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Alain Resnais Night and Fog is a film that needs to be seen by as many people as possible. This documentary short is more an essay on the nature of man than an exploration of the Holocaust.
Shot in simple black and white and vivid color the film blends a past and present view of the horror of Nazi Germany like no other film I've ever seen. A simple voiceover guides us on a tour of the concentration camps a mere ten years after their liberation. The images are haunting and graphic. The most startling commentary comes at the end of the narration. We are warned that the spector of war is always present, always lurking and that if we are not careful and do not remember the past the horror could return at any moment.
This is a Criterion DVD with relatively few extras. However the viewer does not need extras to feel the mind numbing impact of this film. Provided are a short excerpt from a Renais audio interview in 1994 and crew biographies compiled by Peter Cowie. There is also a music only soundtrack.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2006
I saw this film over 25 years ago and there is nothing that I've seen since that has made such an impression on me in regards to the shameful atrocities of the Nazi's in WWII. It is probably because of this film that I get so upset when I hear reports that someone states that the holocaust never happened.
Out of all the reviews here, only one has given this anything less than four stars. To that person I say, yes, this is disgusting and disturbing - it was meant to be because it covers a most disgusting and disturbing historical truth. I also agree that it is not for children. Nor is it elegant. To describe this subject in an elegant way seems to me like a crime unto itself.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2004
Resnais' Night and Fog is an example of the pure power of image. There is no comfort zone of actors and special effects between the viewer and the movie, it is all real. Life as it truly happened, in all its horrific reality. Although uncomfortable to watch, it is essential. The power of the documentary has been neglected over the past few years by the mainstream. The public wishes to suspend reality when viewing movies, not be confronted by it. Hopefully more directors will take a cue from Resnais and provide us with cinematic mirrors by which to judge ourselves.