Singer studies a lost documentary made by Sidney Bernstein (with the help of Alfred Hitchcock), which documents and explores life in a German concentration camp in 1945, exposing footage from the tapes (complete with original narration), with present day interviews with those who were involved at the time.
The widely known figure of six million Jews being killed is one so vast, you can’t really get your head around it. It’s disguised as just a number on a page, a statistic that we’ve grown unfortunately accustomed to, as you struggle to fully register and comprehend something so savage and monstrous. What Singer has managed, however, with the help of Bernstein’s original footage – is to humanise these victims and remind us of the individual. We see the haunting images of lifeless skeletons dragged along the ground and tossed into mass graves. People stripped of their lives – and just to top it all off, their dignity. Night Will Fall manages to make these events feel somewhat more intimate, as you become overwhelmed by the realisation that each and every one of these victims had their own life, hobbies, feelings. Suddenly this incomprehensible figure of six million seems even more difficult to swallow, as you get a sense for the individual.
Though when watching a film with footage as disturbing as this, you struggle to differentiate between what is an accomplished piece of cinema, and what is merely shocking. Sadly this endeavour falls into the latter category for the most part. It’s impossible not to witness these images without feeling distraught, but artistically, Night Will Fall does leave a lot to be desired, as we don’t truly get into the minds of those who were there at the time. Instead it feels somewhat detached, as though we’re stumbling across this footage much like our cameraman were at the time, shocked, appalled and confused – yet still none the wiser in regards to how people actually felt to be there – or why the Nazis did what they did in such sinister fashion.
That being said, Night Will Fall is still an important watch, and though from a filmmaking perspective it’s somewhat underwhelming, we still need to reminded of what human beings can be capable of, in spite of how uncomfortable and upsetting this is to sit through. This barbaric brutality in modern history has to be explored and studied, making for a film that is horrid, yet ultimately, imperative viewing.