Night and Fog (Nuit et brouillard) (1955)

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Released 4-Aug-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Audio Commentary-Mark Baker - Historian
Featurette-Message For Humanity
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1955
Running Time 30:12 (Case: 32)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Alain Resnais
Studio
Distributor
Argos Films
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Jean Cayrol
Chris Marker
Michel Bouquet
Reinhard Heydrich
Heinrich Himmler
Adolf Hitler
Julius Streicher
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Hanns Eisler


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.29:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

Night and Fog is a 32 minute (well, 30 minute thanks to PAL speed-up) documentary about the holocaust during the second world war. Produced in 1955, prior to the coining of the term 'holocaust', the film is to this day regarded as one of the defining depictions of that particular slice of history.

The film gives a fairly minimalist, bare-facts, account of the people affected by Himmler's the "Night and Fog" campaign, in which perceived dissidents were whisked away in the night to concentration camps. Two sets of images are juxtaposed to conjure the mood of the film; full colour images of the camps at the time the film was produced, derelict and overgrown with thick green grass, and stark black and white footage and still images from the time of the war, when the camps and the "Night and Fog" campaign were in full effect.

A haunting score, that bares a distinct similarity to Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, features prominently throughout and significantly helps to create a surreal, meditative mood in the film. That mood builds steadily throughout the film, much like the steady and deliberately slow escalation in the disturbing nature of the imagery shown.

Whilst some truly horrifying footage is shown, it is worth noting that its presentation is compassionate and in no way exploitative. That said, the imagery is likely to disturb sensitive viewers, however it is necessary to develop the the understanding conveyed by the film.

Director Alain Resnais would echo many of the sentiments he stirred up in Night and Fog in his opus Hiroshima Mon Amour, though that film tackles different subject matter about the same period.

Night and Fog remains a powerful and unusual meditative document on a disturbing piece of history.

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Transfer Quality

Video

The film is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. The video quality is remarkable for the age of the film.

The transfer is very accurate to the original film, though the quality of the video varies throughout the film depending on the quality of the stock footage assembled. The image is reasonably sharp where the footage permits. There is no low level noise in the image. There is a good amount of detail in the shadows. Grain varies substantially between different segments of video, but never poses a significant distraction.

The colour in the colour scenes is a little pale by modern standards, but fairly lush for film captured in the 1950s. The black and white scenes feature excellent contrast levels.

A small number of film artefacts, mainly small white flecks appear to have been picked up in the transfer. Much of the stock footage features heavy film artefacting, blotches, tramline scratches, dust and the like, though it clearly appears to be from the source footage rather than the transfer and it never becomes a viewing distraction. There are no visible compression-related artefacts visible in the transfer.

White English subtitles are present for the feature. They are occasionally a little hard to read, particularly when they are displayed over large white areas in the black and white segments.

This is a single layer disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

A single French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224 Kbps) audio track is present for the film. Though it is technically a 2.0 track, it sounds mono, which would be true to the original source. The soundtrack is clear and well preserved, with minimal noise and compression noticeable, though obviously sounds to have been captured on lower fidelity equipment than is available in the modern age.

The narration is crystal clear and well placed in the mix.

Hanns Eisler's mesmerising score sounds beautifully clear in the mix.

There is no surround channel or subwoofer use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Message For Humanity Featurette (15:23)

An Australian perspective on the Holocaust, told through a series of interviews with holocaust survivors that moved to Australia following the war and Mark Baker, a Monash University lecturer whose mother was a holocaust survivor herself. Most of the interviews are cut together from interviews conducted by the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, which was set up by Steven Spielberg around the time of Schindler's List, in the mid 1990s as part of its living history project.

This is a fascinating and compassionate documentary.

Audio Commentary with Mark Baker

Monash University academic, who specialises in holocaust studies, provides a thoroughly insightful commentary on the film. The commentary both explains the holocaust itself in greater detail than the film, which uses a deliberate minimalist approach, and explains many of the deliberate filmmaking techniques used to convey the message of the film.

Umbrella Trailers

Trailers for other Umbrella releases; Europa, Europa, Swastika, The Thief and Open City

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Two prominent releases of Night and Fog exist aside from theis Region 4 edition, a Region 1 Criterion Collection release and a French Region 2 release. Neither contain any of the the extra features found on the Region 4 release.

    The Criterion release features:

    The French Region 2 release features:

    It is also featured on the US Region 1 Short Cinema Journal 1:3 - Authority short feature collection, though that release contains no extras specific to this film.

    I would recommend the Region 4 release above those in other regions for its substantial, high quality extras that feature a particular relevance to Australian audiences.

Summary

    Though it sounds a cliche, Night and Fog truly is a film to be experienced rather than simply watched. It provides a defining image of the World War II holocaust that has inspired countless subsequent movies and documentaries.

    The audio and visual presentation on this disc is excellent, particularly given the age of the material. The extras are substantial and feature a particular Australian interest.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Friday, September 05, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3, using HDMI output
Display Samsung 116cm LA46M81BD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX2016AVS. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX2016AVS
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, 100W centre and 4 surround/rear speakers, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

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