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Film / Night and Fog

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Night and Fog (Nuit et brouillard) is a 1956 is a 32-minutes documentary film from France, directed by Alain Resnais.

It is about The Holocaust, and specifically, the Nazi concentration camps. The film opens with color footage from the 1950s of Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. A narrator comments on the rise of the Nazis and their construction of concentration camps to punish their enemies. (Oddly, the specific use of death camps for the extermination of the Jews is not dwelt upon.) The film examines the operation of concentration camps: the arrival of victims on cattle cars, how they are shaved and tattooed, their horrifying living conditions in wooden barracks, their use as industrial slave laborers. Prisoners are used as victims in ghastly medical experiments; some are used as sex slaves in brothels. Finally, the film moves on to extermination, showing the gas chambers and the crematoria, as well as the goods that were taken from the dead.

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The first commercially-released documentary of the Holocaust, and one that proved quite controversial when it was made. The West Germans tried to stop the film from being screened at Cannes. Resnais's own French government demanded that he obscure a shot of a French policeman standing guard over Jews being rounded up at the Vel d' HIV.


Tropes:

  • Documentary: The first Holocaust documentary.
  • Fan Disservice: A shot of nude men at some sort of morning roll call is accompanied by the narrator talking about how the Nazis liked to humiliate their prisoners.
  • Gorn: It doesn't get worse than this. The film pulls no punches in showing things like charred corpses in crematoria, sightless staring eyes, piles of severed heads, huge mounds of dead bodies being shoved into pits by bulldozers.
  • Narrator: French actor Michel Bouquet provides narration. There are no Talking Heads.
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  • The Noun and the Noun: The film takes its title from the "Nacht und Nebel" decree by Adolf Hitler, in which opponents of the Nazi regime would simply be disappeared.
  • Ominous Fog: A shot of a fog-bound train station is used to reinforce the "night and fog" idea.
  • Sex Slave: Some prisoners were used as sex slaves in Nazi brothels.
  • Stock Footage: Newsreels, footage taken by the Allies and the Soviets as they entered the camps from east and west. Clips from Triumph of the Will are used to illustrate the rise of the Nazis.
  • Tested on Humans: Horrific Real Life examples of perverted Nazi "science". German doctors studied how to treat phosphorous burns by burning inmates with phosphorous.
  • Title Drop: The narration mentions that some of the prisoners were labeled "N.N." for "Nacht und Nebel" political prisoners. Later however the film touches again, talking about how death "chooses in the night and fog" as a train pulls up to Auschwitz.

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