Censorship in the 1950's: How did this affect the making of “Night and Fog” one of the first ever cinematic documentaries on the Holocaust? A film by Alain Resnais.
The ‘Night and Fog Decree’ was issued by Adolf Hitler on December 7th 1941. The ‘Night and Fog Decree’ (Nacht und Nebel Erlass) bypassed all forms of basic law and was an order from Hitler to his secret police to murder anyone in Nazi Germany and occupied Europe who was deemed to be
a threat. The decree stated that such people were not to be immediately executed but were to vanish without a trace into the night and fog. (www.historylearningsite.co.uk).
I would like to point out the poignant cinematography, which was very innovative for its time. The narration and the filming introducing what was about to be uncovered must have been extremely moving in a melancholy way. The mise-en-scène is both compelling and haunting, each frame cleverly editied. Resnais experimented with what is known as the long shot, and the 360 degree shot, to make the voyeur very aware of the unbalanced composition. The panning of the film tracking back from Auschwitz brings us a close up, of barbed wire. This clearly suggests that this isn't what it appears to be. Resnais films the past in black and white, and the then present in colour. The ambiance is chilling, and the composed background music unique. Where normally dramatic loud music would be used to express the abonimation and enormity of the most horrendous scenes, Resnais did quite the contrary.
My main argument will cover what was behind Night and Fog. This controversial piece of art is entwined with post-war French politics and censorship - for example how France, post-war, wanted to be perceived in an official capacity during the war. According to (Greene 1999) censorship restrictions in force throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s ensured that these works could only hint at some of the darkest zones of the French past. Greene clearly infers that France assisted the deportation of Jews to the concentration camps. This is something they wanted quashed, or at least hushed up. I want to discuss how Resnais tackled the censorship quandary, and how it actually backfired on the French government. But isn't censorship there to protect the nation, and surely the government would know what’s best for its citizens?
Resnais had made a short film in 1953, Les Statues Meurent, which was banned in France. He claimed western society was accountable for the decline of African art. H
clearly has a controversial background which could hurt the nation as a whole. It could be argued, yes western society is to blame for the slump in African art but he has to consider why? Another assumption and generalisation of Resnais's thoughts what about the extinction of animals relating to a possible embargo. This clearly shows censorship as something positive. These were the times where individuality was heavily scrutinised. How could new ideologies such as fascism...