Night and Fog (Alain Resnais z”l)

night fog

Just found out that Alain Resnais recently died. Not up on the secondary literature on Resnais or on Night and Fog I was surprised to learn a couple of things reading Benjamin Ivry’s tribute (?) in the Forward. [1] Resnais barely mentions the Jews at all. [2] Resnais was criticized for his aestheticizing of the Holocaust. Having grown up with film, watching it in venues like Hebrew school and summer camp, it never occurred to me that Night and Fog was about anything other than a Jewish catastrophe. It was simply assumed, presented as such, and understood as such. As for what is maybe the aesthetic anti-aesthetic, maybe surrealist aspect of the movie, about that I can’t say that it bothers me much. Again, having grown up with the film, I always took its mode of graphic presentation at face value. It would seem to me that any presentation is always already steeped in style, that a filmmaker can present a Jewish theme in a universal voice. But maybe that’s to be naive. The NYT obituary barely mentions Night and Fog, devoting a single short paragraph buried deep in the article to what François Truffaut once called “the greatest movie ever made.”

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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2 Responses to Night and Fog (Alain Resnais z”l)

  1. nitzan says:

    I’m with you on this. I wrote once (my very first article:) about the Israeli debate about the film, during the 1950s and 1960s. It was banned for a long time for that (i.e. not mentioning the Jews, and for universalizing the Holocaust) by the Knesset committee for censorship of film and theater.

    • zjb says:

      so surprising, but maybe not. like i said, the environments in which i saw the film as a very young person made it clearly obvious that this was a universal theme about Jews. thanks, Nitzan.

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