Nuit et brouillard — Alain Resnais’ Memento for Our Reality
Essayistic review of the documentary film
Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog, 1955) by Alain Resnais
in which the director depicts Auschwitz ten years after the
end of the second world war. Alain Resnais, later most famous
for his first two »intellectual« and perfectly chiselled
feature films Hiroshima mon amour (1959) and L’année derni#re
à Marienbad (1961), created a work of art greater than the
art itself with this film, a film about the historic break
between humanism and modern art which was the subject matter
of Adorno, Horkheimer, Lyotard. With its systematic, scientific
and technological extermination of human beings, night and
fog, Nacht und Nebel became the paradigm of the biopolitical
world discussed by Giorgio Agamben today.
»The holy life«
of Agamben’s homo sacer shows that the images from Nuit
et brouillard are forgotten in today’s biopolitical world.
The stateless person, the refugee, the asylum-seeker, the
migrant... They are all Nazi death camps’ inmates of today’s
biopolitical world. Who can forget the shocking Nazi experiment
with using parts of human body for objects’ recycling?
But Resnais notes the existence of »cultural contents«
within the camps such as orchestra, and he also mentions
»zoological gardens«. Agamben writes about a metapolitical
phenomenon of human parks and about a »warehouse« as a
metaposition of the West (»The warehouse, not the state,
is the biopolitical paradigm of the West!«).
that Nuit et brouillard was »the greatest film of all times«.
In his Histoires du cinéma, showing segments from Resnais’
film, Godard talked about the hollow death bells’ ringing
accompanying the scenes that recall the Breughel’s Triumph
of Death. Resnais juxtaposes the film’s impotence before
the documentary scenes of diluvial evil embodied in Auschwitz
to its »fatal beauty«. History is full of faults to be
able to explain the Auschwitz and concentration camps’
phenomena. Even the documentary, as the basic film form,
remains powerless with regard to this question.