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Christian Delage.nuit Et Brouillard resnais

Christian Delage.nuit Et Brouillard resnais

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Published by: markacohen12121 on May 07, 2010
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Nuit et Brouillard:
a turning point in the historyand memory of the Holocaust
Christian Delage
 Nuit et Brouillard (Night and Fog)
was the first major French film to deal with the Naziconcentration camps.
Since its release in December 1955, the career of the film hasbeen as much commercial as artistic, its relatively brief running time of 32 minutes allowing it to be shown just as easily in commercial cinemas as on art-house screens. Afew rigorous teachers, such as Henri Agel, brought the film to the attention of generations of students before the public authorities imposed regular screenings in schoolsin order to combat the resurgence of antisemitisin in French society.
Following thedesecration of the Jewish cemetery in Carpentras in 1990, the film was programmedon all French television channels. Such official recognition might lead one to believethat the film, made by Alain Resnais and Jean Cayrol and produced by Anatole Dau-man, had been received favourably from the outset or, at least, that its reputation hadsince become a matter of consensus due to the gravity of its subject and the ethical andaesthetic approach of the filmmakers. In fact, this was not the case on its release and itsreputation remains complicated half a century later.Despite having been well received by the critics owing to its award of the Prix JeanVigo,
no sooner was
Night and Fog
completed than it had to come to terms with several types of censorship. The first of these originated in the French Commission forthe Classification of Films which insisted that Resnais remove shots of corpses whichwere judged to be too shocking and, above all, that he excise a photograph showing aFrench gendarme guarding the camp at Pithiviers.'
Then, just as it was announced that
 Night and Fog
had joined the shortlist of French films to be screened at the Cannes FilmFestival, it was implicated in a political and diplomatic imbroglio: the German Embassyin France attempted to have the film withdrawn, provoking a polemic whose scoperapidly became international.
Following its initially turbulent reception, the career of 
 Night and Fog
was characterised by a form of institutionalisation that brought with it asecond wave of criticism questioning how apposite its status was as a key work aboutthe history of the genocide of the Jews. Serge Klarsfeld reports that while, at the timeof its release, the film had... greatly moved me, it can be seen differently today since it is a filnrwhose major flaw isnot to convey the singularity of the fate of the Jews. What has emerged since 1975 is thedifference between those who were deported because they were political opponents of Nazism and those who were deported because they were born Jews.
In the 1990s, Georges Bensoussan emphasised that 'the genocide of the Jews is almostabsent from the film',
while Annette Wieviorka went further, saying that 'this film hasnothing to say regarding the genocide of the Jews'.
By reconstructing the genesis of the film, I will endeavour to show how the filmmakers tried constantly to convey and interweave heterogeneous elements of the Naziconcentration camp system. However, my working hypothesis is that, far from havingonly been subject to the context in which it was deployed, the collective experience of 
 Night and Fog
can be seen today as an essential stage in the work of remembering
lesannées noires
(the years of Occupation) and the Final Solution.
When and why was Night and Fog made?
During 1954 a certain number of initiatives were taken that marked an inflection inFrench policy regarding the memory of the camps. On 14 April a law was passed inaugurating a National Day of Remembrance for the Victims and Heroes of the Deportation.On 10 November, an exhibition opened at the Pedagogical Museum at 29 rue d'Ulm entitled
Inaugurated by the Minister of Education, theexhibition received almost 60,000 visitors including 30,000 students from educationalestablishments in Paris. Conceived by the Committee for the History of the SecondWorld War (Comité d'Histoire de la Deuxième Guerre Mondiale, CHGM), the exhibition played no small part in transmitting the memory of the war and deportations.One of the outcomes of the exhibition was the concern expressed by the MunicipalCouncil of Paris about the fate of the documents assembled for the occasion and thislaunched the idea of'the creation in Paris of a Municipal Museum of the Resistance,Liberation and Deportation in which the first elements will be made up of the documents above'.
This proposal would also be taken up in the Assemblée Nationale byMadame de Lipovsky who would present a 'proposal' with a similar outcome in mind.If 1954 marked the tenth anniversary of the Liberation of France, the following yearwould commemorate the opening of the camps. To allow for the two events to overlap,the exhibition, scheduled to close on 9 January, was extended until 23 January 1955 atthe request of Pierre Mendès-France, the Président du Conseil.The exhibition was acclaimed by the press both nationally and internationally forthe importance of its subject. If the
New York Times
straightforwardly stated that 'thevisitor learns how the occupier behaved and rediscovers the spirit behind the struggle for the Liberation',
lauded the 'objectivity' of the perspective adopted:"'beyond the homage to the Resistance, this exhibition offers an objective commentaryon Nazi methods in occupied France and in the concentration camps'.
In this regard,
 Déportation et Liberté 
emphasised that 'it was a good thing that such an exhibition attempted to show a large audience what the concentration camps were, using images toexplain how what happened in them was a deliberate execution of a plan that, fortunately, had been stopped'.
As well as photographic images, there were daily projections of films about the war,the resistance and the deportations. The deportations were recalled thanks to a montage of French newsreels screened in 1945,
Les Camps de la mort,
and a Polish fictionfilm,
Ostatni etap (The Last Stage),
directed by Wanda Jakubowska in 1948. Thesewould be among the first documents watched by the producers
of Night and Fog
preparing the film and would bring together the principal partners who would get theproject underway: on the French side, CHGM (the French Ministry of War Veterans)and ZBoWid (the Union of War Veterans for Liberty and Democracy) on the Polishside. In fact, at the beginning of January, Henri Michel, the organiser of the exhibition,had announced that the project of'a film about the concentration camp system' was being considered. He had been in agreement about the project with the producer AnatoleDauman and his colleagues Philippe Lifchitz and Sylvain Halfon when he welcomedthem to the exhibition.During their visit they would have noticed that admission to the room dedicatedto the Deportation - in which 'the fate of those who, imprisoned for political or racialreasons or for acts of resistance, suffered torture or death or were sent from Frenchprisons to camps in the Greater Reich was recounted - was prohibited to those under17 years of age 'because of the tragic aspect of many of the documents exhibited'.
Theproblem of such images of atrocity was immediately uppermost in the minds of thefilm's producers. In one of the first descriptions of the project, written on 3 March 1955,Michel noted:The subject matter and the nature of the material collected guarantees this film greatdramatic intensity but the filmmakers are aware that the pitfall that needs to be avoidedis that of subjecting the spectator to excessive horror. It is therefore important not to emphasis the 'sadistic', 'war crime' 'inhuman atrocity' aspect of the concentration camps butto relate, via image and commentary, a sociological explanation. In watching this film,former inmates must be able to recognise their ordeals but ordinary spectators must alsounderstand how systematic, in its combination of cruel barbarity and scientific experiment, the phenomenon of the concentration camps was.
'Two requirements had to be satisfied: firstly, the quasi-pedagogic requirement to disseminate knowledge of how the concentration camps worked and secondly, relating tothe issue of memory, the requirement that the experiences of surviving deportees befaithfully recounted." In so doing, it was equally crucial to take account of the generation gap within the audience as it was a public of young spectators that was conceivedas the film's principal target.
To realise their plans, the producers invited Alain Resnais to direct the film. Resnaishad already made several short films, mainly about painters (
VAN Gogh
(1950)), but he had no personal experience of the camps nor hadhe been deported. He was therefore initially unwilling to take on the project, acceptingonly when the producers agreed to also employ the poet Jean Cayrol, who had beeninterned at Gusen camp (a satellite of Mauthausen). Although Cayrol was eventuallyto write the commentary, during most of the production the team consisted of Resnais,Dauman and the two historical advisers, Michel and Wormser.Returning to the issue of how to utilise the atrocity images, in an interview recordedin 1986, Resnais explained that, at the time,People saw the film in private screenings and many said to me 'You're frightened ot theviolence, you've suppressed the terrible images we saw during the Liberation, etc' Whichis utterly wrong. I had at my disposal all the French films which had been screened at the

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