Sylvie Lindeperg

Night and Fog Publication date : January 18, 2007

“It was the cinema that taught me that the human condition and industrial butchery were not incompatible, and that the worst had just happened,” wrote the critic Serge Daney.
More specifically, this was driven home to Daney by Alain Resnais’ 1956 film Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog), with a commentary by Jean Cayrol.
Walter Benjamin incited the historian “to discover in the analysis of a minor singular moment the crystal of the entire event”. This is what Sylvie Lindeperg sets out to do in this micro-history of a film that was a major event and altered our perception of the Holocaust. She follows all the stages of the film’s creation, from its inception to its release and beyond, not only in France but also in East and West Germany, in Israel, the United States, and the rest of the world. She describes the film’s difficult beginnings, hesitations concerning the commentary, and some of the official reactions it provoked. She also examines what the film reveals about contemporary attitudes.
How can one represent that which cannot be represented? This question will remain for many years until Jacques Lanzmann’s film Shoah— and, possibly, even until today. None the less, Nuit et brouillard is still one of the greatest films of a “cinema of history”.

This book examines Resnais’ great film about the Holocaust from every angle and shows how the collective memory is constructed.
How and why did the film mark our perception to such as extent? What were the intentions that inspired it? What reactions did it provoke? How can filmmakers go beyond making a purely archival documentary, without distorting what they wish to represent? For our media- and image-dominated world, this book offers a fascinating reflection on the creation of a major film.
Perhaps this study of Nuit et brouillard can serve as a lesson for a time that has continued to raise questions around the memory of the tragic events of the past and present.

Sylvie Lindeperg, a senior lecturer at the University of Paris-III-Sorbonne Nouvelle, specialises in audiovisual media and their relation to history.