Excavating Eisler: Relocating the Memorial Voice in Nuit et Brouillard

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Book Chapter

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Kompositionen für den Film: Zu Theorie und Praxis von Hanns Eislers Filmmusik


In the fall of 1955, the young French film director, Alain Resnais, began a memorial project aimed at presenting the events of the Holocaust to a postwar generation reluctant to acknowledge the extent of such human rights abuses. In his film, Nuit et Brouillard (Night and Fog), Resnais traversed the boundary between history and memory through a montage which contrasted live shots of the barren landscape of Auschwitz in 1955 with horrific images from Auschwitz during the 1940s. Through this series of cinematic flashbacks, the present physicality of the abandoned concentration camp became intertwined with documentation of past misdeeds, a technique that caused the two filmic strands to exert interpretational pressure on one another. As film historian James Monaco has argued, Nuit et Brouillard dealt less with "the camps as they actually existed" and more with "our memory of the camps [...] for the memories are real and present, as are the physical remains through which [Resnais's] restless camera ceaselessly tracks." Resnais's use of montage creates a tension not only between various visual media (photography versus motion picture; black-and-white versus color; the graininess of the archival material versus the clarity of the live film) but also between the present calm of the Polish field and its "ineradicable ghosts." In Nuit et Brouillard, these shifts not only stress the relationship between juxtaposed material but also provide the documentary with a sense of memorial distance and veracity.


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