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Abstract

A contemplative camera glides fluidly through a vacant field, one that appears like any other. As it glides, somber images of barbed wire, dilapidated barracks, and rusted railroad tracks beckon the audience to witness the ruins of the Aushwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. “Going slowly along the tracks, seeking what?” asks narrator Michel Bouquet. These questions are more rhetorical than anything, allowing the audience to question their own moral and social obligations to the unfathomable. For the sake of humanity, it is crucial to remember the events of the Holocaust and deny them from happening again. Released only ten years after the end of World War II, Night and Fog (1955) was one of the first Holocaust films to represent the horrors of Nazi concentration camps. Being a documentary about such an event, the film poses several problems with how it represents this topic. “How does one document inconceivable horrors and incalculable pain? How does one maintain the image’s power to shock without evoking either total disbelief or incapacitating grief?” (Flitterman-Lewis, 205). Even the filmmakers are aware of how futile documenting such an event would be: “What hope do we have of truly capturing this reality?” the narrator continues. In order to express the inexpressible, Resnais and Cayrol use a powerful tactic of presentation. As noted by Fitterman-Lewis, “a horror too great to be encompassed must be approached obliquely, even metaphorically.” (209) Night and Fog approaches this difficult expression through the use of juxtaposition and carefully structured narration, which, when combined, facilitate what Renais calls “constructive forgetting”. In perhaps the best way to capture the horrific reality of the Holocaust, the cinematic strategies found in Night and Fog assist audiences in a grim reflection of one of the most shocking crimes in the annals of human history.

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