Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Night Will Fall - review

In 1945, towards the end of World War II, Allied troops began to liberate the Nazi concentration camps. What they found there was so shocking that they filmed it with cameras in order to document the horror so that those responsible could be held to account.

Producer Sidney Bernstein was tasked with making a documentary using the footage that could be used as a tool to hold a mirror up to those who took part in the atrocities and to those who stood by and let it happen.

He even brought Alfred Hitchcock in as a supervising director but before the film could be finished it was abandoned due to political pressure as it was felt that shaming the Germans would be counter productive as they were also needing their help to rebuild the country following the collapse of the Third Reich.

For years this film remained unfinished but don't go into Night Will Fall expecting to see the completed film because it is actually more of a documentary about the making of a documentary.

Interviews with some of the soldiers who were among the first to see the camps, survivors and those involved in processing the footage are intercut with some of the most horrific images that have ever emerged from the Holocaust.

Many films have shown the pits of bodies upon bodies of the dead but this film shows the soldiers moving them and tossing them in as if they were sacks of rubbish.
One soldier even commented that if they had seen them as people then they would have gone mad, so large was the scale of the task.

There are reactions shots of Germans being brought in to witness what their country had done and you can see the shock in their faces to the sights and smells of the camp.

In particular, there is one final reel of footage that will stay with you forever, unable to be wiped from your memory, as a voiceover says "Unless the world learns the lessons these pictures teach, night will fall".

Yes, the film is a harrowing, disturbing, sobering viewing experience but as the quote intones, it is also an essential one as it is important to learn the lessons from the past in order to prevent anything like this from happening again.

4 stars

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