Analysis of 'Night and Fog'

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“The effective war film is often the one in which the action begins after the war, when there is nothing but ruins and desolation everywhere…” Francois Truffaut

Francois Truffaut continued on to say that Alain Resnais’ Night and Fog, made in 1955, was the “greatest film ever made”. The 30-minute film based on the horrors of the Holocaust and Nazi concentration camps after World War II combines Resnais’ own cinematography with original images and footage of the captives in their unfathomable state. The film is lead with a somber narrative that not only accompanies the sobering images being shown but both compliments them and puts them into perspective. Carl R. Plantigna’s chapter from his book ‘Rhetoric and Representation in Non-fiction Film’ titled ‘Voice and Authority’, suitably analyses the way narrative, and the idea of ‘Voice of God’ narration in particular is used in non-fiction films to not only tell the viewers what they are seeing but to pose the question as to ‘what is the film attempting to convey?’. In deconstructing the film’s use of image, music and narration and that of Plantigna’s ideas on narrative in non-fiction films, the ideas can be applied to Night and Fog in order to better understand the purpose and effectiveness of narrative in documentary film.

Plantigna discusses Bill Nichols’ four modes of documentary film; the observational mode also known as direct cinema; the interactive where the filmmakers’ presence is apparent; the reflexive that takes on the process of representation; and finally the expository mode where the film takes on commentary or narration (101). The disembodied voice that acts as the eyes of the camera speaks directly to the viewer (Wilson, 2011), illuminates and gives historical meaning to the images on the screen demonstrating that Night and Fog was made in the expository form. Plantigna quotes Nichols’ in concurrence with this where he states that in an expository film, the voice “addresses the viewer directly,...
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