Night Will Fall – Review by Frank L.
Directed by Andre Singer
Writer: Lynette Singer
Stars: Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Bernstein
Towards the end of the Second World War the British army trained combat troops in the use of cameras so as to record what they witnessed as they with their American and Russian allies advanced to liberate Europe and defeat the forces of the Third Reich. To state the obvious war and its consequences is unrelentingly grim. However nothing could have prepared those troops as to the grotesqueness of the horrors of the concentration and extermination camps which they had the misfortune to stumble upon and in particular the horrors of Bergen Belsen. The footage was originally intended to be used in a documentary to be shown to highlight the iniquities of the Third Reich but political pressures intervened and even though the documentary was far advanced it was never completed. However it was preserved in its unfinished state. In this documentary Andre Singer (executive producer of the Act of Killing) uses footage from the original unfinished work, contemporary newsreel, documents seeking to explain why it was not completed and subsequent interviews with survivors of the camps and the soldiers. It makes for an absorbing but harrowing film.
The original footage of the scenes within Bergen Belsen are extremely difficult to comprehend so horrific are the images. Most of the footage is in black and white but the interviews are mostly in colour and in some unspecified way this seems to assert that the variety of life in colour overwhelms and subjugates the horrors of what is shown in black and white. It permits some obscure little bit of human decency to emerge. This deeply moving documentary raises various searching questions about the dignity of every human life, the use of cinematic evidence in propaganda and in legal trials and the political pressures that can come into play as to the ultimate use of contemporary cinematic footage. It does not pretend to provide answers but it does show the sort of issues that do arise and in this instance how those issues were perceived after the war and how some of them were handled. A serious and valuable film.