Short Takes (III): "Night and Fog"

"The only visitor to the [German death camps] now is a camera."  Though Alain Resnais' documentary Night and Fog (1955; 32 minutes) may seem on the face of it to be the opposite of Claude Lanzmann's Shoah (1988; 503 minutes)--the former distinguished by its chilling succinctness, the latter by its epic length and obsessive repetition--the two are related in their shared insistence on turning the eye of the movie camera on the Holocaust; in their sheer determination to use the camera's "objective," unflinching gaze to document its horrors, to find some meaning or truth in it by looking it in the face, albeit after the fact; and in their simultaneous understanding that the Holocaust remains defiantly incomprehensible, a subject that even the truth of the camera cannot penetrate.       

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