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Night and Fog exposes the torturous horror of the Holocaust

In The World on War, we travel around the globe and investigate how armed conflict influences a country's popular culture and its representation of war in film.

As a member of society, a living human being, it is imperative that you view this film. It is crucial that we each understand the destructive capabilities of our species, fuelled by irrationality and insanity; the ruthlessness and chaos, the fear and hatred.

We must look into the eyes of our brothers, our sisters, our ancestors, lost to an incongruous regime led by a madman yielding the world as his plaything. We must be forced to witness the decay and suffering, not yet 100 years old, in all its brutal, harsh reality.

Alain Resnais provides only an outline of World War II and life in the concentration camps. Thirty-two minutes of visual and aural poetry, destructive, honest, pure. We are shown graphic images; images too painful, most documentaries dare not to show. Bodies distorted beyond recognition; suffering of starved children, women and elderly; shoes, glasses and hair piled up in factories; wide-eyed stares of the dead; prisoners feigning smiles for the cameras; bodies bulldozed into pits. Archival footage that is overwhelming, impossible to comprehend.

Resnais pairs this footage with post-war footage of a haunted Auschwitz. He comments on the silence, the ghosts of the massacred underfoot, the grass oddly growing to suggest rejuvenation. But, of course, we cannot regrow from such tortures. We cannot blindly ignore our past mistakes. Night and Fog attempts to serve as that reminder.

Despite Resnais’ prodding, humanity continues to destroy and cause pain. Made during the Algerian War, Resnais hoped Night and Fog would deter the systematic torture and merciless killing taking place during that time. But one man cannot stop millions. Night and Fog: a film about all wars, all suffering.

The film takes a very French perspective, but Night and Fog is undoubtedly universal. The suffering of the Jews during World War II affects everybody. The suffering during the Algerian War affects everybody. The suffering of the current Syrian War and conflict in Ukraine affects everybody. We are one society.

But, thirty minutes of visual and aural poetry will never equate to pain, massacre or torture. Millions of destroyed lives cannot be whittled down to art. Effective as Night and Fog may be, and it is the most effective of all war documentaries, it is not enough, it will never be enough. We cannot forget our past, but history has shown our past gets forgotten. 

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