A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Night and Fog (Alain Resnais, 1955)

Cynics used to say that the surest way to win an Oscar for best documentary was to make a film about the Holocaust. But when Alain Resnais's Night and Fog was released, it not only received no Oscar nominations, but it was confronted by protests. The German government wanted it to be withdrawn from exhibition at the Cannes Film Festival, and the French censors objected to a scene in which a French police officer was shown guarding one of the deportation centers run by the Vichy government during the war. The French censors also objected to a sequence showing bodies being bulldozed into a mass grave. But it's a testimony to the power of Resnais's editing and the narrative written by Jean Cayrol, a survivor of the Mauthausen-Gusen camp, and spoken by Michel Bouquet, that although such images have grown distressingly familiar over the past 60 years, they still have their power to shock the conscience. It sounds tediously moralizing to reiterate, but every time a politician today tries to dehumanize whatever group is currently out of favor, these images should come to mind.

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