Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (2)

This continues a post begun last week...

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One with the Prom Video (Season 2, Episode 14) –

There is a sense that Kaufman, Crane and Bright realised how much we loved dress-up Friends episodes after this one. Soon enough, we had The One with all the ThanksgivingsThe One with the Flashback and The One that Could Have Been Part I/II. Admittedly, these episodes are often the reason there are chronological inconsistencies, but The One with the Prom Video is a stand-out moment. Ross’ moustache (“Misster Kotter”) and the first appearance of fat-Monica and original-nose Rachel are for the books, but the backstory between Rachel, Monica and Ross is front and centre – and the realisation for Rachel as to how long he has loved her. The fact that Ross is playing the keyboard only hints at another brilliant episode later (The One where Chandler crosses the line in Season 4) when he plays his “sound”.

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Monday, 29 September 2014

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (3)

This continues a post from yesterday.

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One Where Ross Finds Out (Season 2, Episode 7) –

Considering the entire first season has Ross hankering after Rachel. And then, starting the second season, they still aren’t together because of Julie. It is lovely when it finally happens. Then again, it doesn’t last long (in a show-running moment of genius, the next episode is The One with The List.) Ross - and his long face - leaning on the Central Perk door. Rachel, struggling to open the door. That music. Could be the most memorable moment of the entire ten series.

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (4)

This continues a post from yesterday.

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One with the Morning after (Season 3, Episode 16) –

We’ve established how Matthew Perry can’t sob. David Schwimmer though, really can. I’ve met some folk who despise this episode arguing it is too serious, but it is worth noting how the entire third season builds up to this. In fact, the ‘copier girl’ is mentioned within the first few episodes of the season. The jealousy over “Mark” is gradually built up until his unplanned/planned comforting of Rachel while Ross, the “dinosaur guy”, scores with the young thing all the boys fancy. The conflicted argument about whether they were “on a break”, begins here. As almost half of the episode relies on Jennifer Anniston and Schwimmer alone, it is a testament to their acting chops that it holds up. Ross, desperately seeking comfort in Rachel’s arms, remains a moment whereby you’d need a heart of stone not to crumble a teeny bit.

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Saturday, 27 September 2014

A Walk among the Tombstones (Scott Frank, 2014)

Liam Neeson, hunting down dastardly criminals, is something of a pull at the box-office. From Taken to Non-Stop, Neeson seems to perfectly portray the hero who can save the day. A Walk among the Tombstones seems to seek the pace, and urgency of Taken, but tries to balance it out with a Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-like investigation. A Walk among the Tombstones is a modern example of a star-led drama that, without the star, falls into B-Movie throwaway film fare.

Apart from a 1991-set brief opening, the bulk of the film is set during 1999. Multiple nods to the Y2K virus hint at an end-of-days fear, but this is neither effective nor intertwined with the plot (except the “People are afraid of the wrong things” tag line). The main thrust of the story is the hunting of two serial killers, who expertly target the wives and children of drug-dealers. Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson), member of alcoholics-anonymous and ex-Police Officer, is sought out to find the culprits of the heinous crimes. Reluctant at first, Scudder is drawn to solving the crimes to atone for his own sins. Due to his lack of computer-skills at the library, he befriends a homeless boy, TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley) who is street smart and thinks fast, and together they piece together the murders – and work out who might be next…

It is simple thriller-by-numbers. The serial-killers, who ride around slowly in a van, are villains in every way. No nuanced characteristics or well-constructed motives, they’re just evil. Not only do they attack and torture women, but they have a strange fetish whereby they cut off breasts using wire. Scudder, alternatively, is the good guy. The tortured soul who seeks forgiveness (not for the shooting of three burglars without trial it seems, but something “worse”) and spends his days attending AA meetings and eating in greasy-spoons. The opening nods to Dirty Harry, and the pervert-accomplice Jonas (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), even looks like a tubbier version of the crazed-hippy in Don Siegel’s classic. Eastwood’s iconic role was known for his shoot-first, ask-questions-later form of police work. A Walk among the Tombstones teased the controversial idea that this brutality holds emotional and psychological consequences. Instead, it seems that Matt Scudder is Harry Callahan without the panache.

Unfortunately, reconfiguring and reflecting on the film only highlights further flaws. First and foremost, women are merely victims in the film (failing the known Bechdel test I assume). The opening credits depict glowing white skin of a sexy blonde woman, only to reveal that she is bound by gaffer tape and is in fact a victim to the serial killers. Jonas, the accomplice who, though helpful and a chatty, is also a peeping tom. He is depicted sympathetically and is almost played as a victim of the serial killers himself. Considering his direct connection and assistance in her kidnap, he gets off lightly in how he is treated. TJ, the wonder-kid who should surely be more vital, gets short shrift and could be removed completely from the film with little change to the story itself.

A Walk among the Tombstones, borders on offensive. Its approach to crime and justice is fatally flawed and Matt Scudder, a complicated character, is reduced to simple clichés. It’s worth noting that Matt Scudder features in 18 novels, whereby he attends his first alcoholic anonymous meeting in the fifth entry to the series. Whether his tales could be told better as a television series, or if director Scott Frank simply crammed too much into one film, this current incarnation is a misfire. Surely Scudder deserved better.

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (5)

This continues a post from yesterday...

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One with the Stoned Guy (Series 1, Episode 15) -

There are a lot of cameos in Friends (Brad Pitt in The One with the Rumour, Billy Crystal and Robin Williams in The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion, etc). Jon Lovitz is one of the few who makes two appearances. This is his first appearance in season one, his second comes in the final season as Rachel dates him (in The One with the Blind Date). The funny thing is, he is the same character in both. As a chef owner, who is high on drugs, Monica attempts to show-off her culinary skills with Rachel playing waitress. Throwing Cheerios (“Save yourself!”) and Phoebe miming his drug-taking are unforgettable moments. But the funniest line remains: "Tarlets .... Tartlets ... Tartlets ... the name has lost all meaning".

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (6)

This continues a post from yesterday...

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One with the Nap Partners (Series 7, Episode 6) -

I originally watched this as the 'uncut' episode on the DVD’s. The very nature of two guys enjoying sleeping with each other (with no homosexual undertones) is unlikely - but I think Mr Heterosexual Joey and Always-In-Love-With-Some-Girl Ross meant that this episode plays for great jokes throughout. On the uncut episode, I vividly remember a section whereby Ross and Joey are 'testing' Phoebe and Rachel on being Bridesmaids, and Joey attempts to force Ross into a nap. I was in tears watching it... but alas, I have not seen the sequence since. It isn’t one of the few uncut episodes on the BluRay and the original DVD’s have been discontinued.

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

In Order of Disappearance (Hans Moland, 2014)

This is a comedy. It’s got an international sensitivity so the humour, though dark and black, is tricky to navigate. In Order of Disappearance, in its white vistas and father-on-a-killing-spree plot, seems to downplay the connection it could have to recent Daddy-action romps Taken and Three Days to Kill. This time with Stellan Skarsgård in the Dad role, rather than merely kidnapped, his son has been murdered and he is hunting down those responsible, one-by-one.

Nils Dickmann (Skarsgård) is introduced as “Citizen of the Year” through his expert snow-ploughing skills (something Stellan Skarsgård told Flickering Myth was a huge amount of fun). The Twin Peaks Norwegian village he lives within seems to include a vast array of different drug-financed criminals including Dickmann’s brother – though he decided to settle down. His son is killed unceremoniously in the opening moments and Nils first reaction is to blow his own head off, until his a friend of his son, Finn (Tobias Santelmann), pops up and changes his mind. As Nils works his way up the chain (with a single cross alongside a name when each character is killed) the stakes get higher and multiple gangs are involved, including Serbian’s led by Bruno Ganz.

There is surely a point being made when films praise the older, traditional man against the young upstarts who kill recklessly and break the law. In Order of Disappearance features clumsy and proud villains, and Nils seems to take each character down with ease. In a similar manner to Fargo, In Order of Disappearance uses the snow-scape to give a sense of innocence to this small village before showing the ugly truth beneath the surface. The kills he racks up forces a pause for the moment, as Nils erodes away his own innocence too. His introverted persona makes each death play out in quiet succession, as if he is simply taking out the trash. Writer Kim Fupz Aakeson also seems to play around with cinema references, squeezing in banter about the ridiculous names of criminals (“Wingman”, “Chinaman”, etc) or explicitly stating his inspirations, as Nils brother tells him “When did you become Dirty Harry?”

In Order of Disappearance is a strange beast. With expected laughs from ludicrous moments involving snow-ploughs and para-skiers, it also hints at an interesting edge as henchmen are shown to have backstories and nuanced characteristics that fail to resonate throughout the story. We are told how “young people destroying themselves” is commonplace and police seem to shy away from tackling the crime too – is this part of the comedy? Or is this a serious side-note?  It feels muddled or simply aimed at a niche audience.

In any case, director Hans Petter Moland manages to capture incredible vistas as snow cascades down across the screen and Skarsgård’s performance remains a haunting depiction of a grieving father; bitter, frustrated, focused on avenging his son’s death. Apparently, “Norwegian kids can’t disappear or bad obnoxious parents look for them”. Clearly, Skarsgård captures that bad (he is killing people) obnoxious parent. But In Order of Disappearance is an acquired taste. If dark humour and revenge-stories in snowy terrain is your cup of tea, then plough ahead.

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (7)

This continues a post from yesterday...

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One with the Proposal (Season 6, Episodes 24 and Episode 25) –

Sadly, Matthew Perry struggles to play an emotional wreck. Sarcastic, smug and childish is Chandler. Romantic, crying and angry isn’t exactly his thing. Despite this, The One with the Proposal forced him to step up to the plate. It’s not as upsetting as some episodes higher in the list but the use of Richard (Tom Selleck) and suddenly-serious approach to Chandler’s lack of commitment make the situation heart-breaking. Joey, telling Chandler that Monica has left is the icing on the cake. Courtney Cox has always managed to play Monica with real heart, and her intense, controlling nature does mean that Monica proposing to Chandler equally makes sense. But, seriously, there are way too many candles. How long did it take to set that up? Isn’t that a huge safety risk? Mr Treeger wouldn’t be amused at all.

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (8)

This continues a post from yesterday...

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One with the Routine (Series 6, Episode 10) -

The later seasons get a lot of stick but, as my favourite character is Ross, this particular episode only serves as another great example of how the Gellar family are complete screw-ups. We are told regularly how strange their upbringing was but, considering how specific this routine needed to be, Schwimmer and Cox must've prepared for weeks to get it right. Ross as wet-blanket is great in the first few series as Schwimmer can play it so well. But Ross as manically-depressed and a bit nuts is when he truly comes out of his shell. Considering the cast, towards the end, were rumoured to be paid $1m per episode, they surely had to work hard for this one.

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Chungking Express (Wong Kar Wai, 1994)

A personal favourite film, Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love is a romantic, sensual masterpiece of filmmaking. Chungking Express, released six years prior, still holds the sensitivity and patience of In the Mood for Love but enjoys a more playful, youthful tone. Both are playing at the BFI Southbank as part of the 'A Century of Chinese Cinema' season throughout September and October.  Chungking Express frames its dual narratives within the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong (many scenes based around the same ‘Midnight Express’ food-stall) whereby the innocent stories of love and criminals on a killing spree seem to merge into the business of life. Chungking Express is a set of moody, tender stories that show that behind the stern exterior of the men of the law is broken hearts and humanity that we can all relate understand.

Two stories are connected by a brief second. The first story follows off-duty cop, He Qiwu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) as he pines after his lost love May. He is desperate to move on and fall in love with another woman, and after a night of pineapple-eating, he meets the woman to adore (played by Brigitte Lin). Unfortunately for him, she is a drug-smuggler who is in hiding after killing off street gang-members after a drug-operation goes south. The second story portrays the romance between an unnamed cop (Tony Leung) and a snack bar worker, Faye (Faye Wong). Cop 663 has seen his steamy relationship with an air-hostess hit the skids, and takes comfort in the coffee and conversation with Faye - only for her to use a key his ex has left behind, to tidy and fool around in his flat. The first story, of a klutz falling for a dangerous, gun-toting dame, plays as an action-come comedy-come-romance while the second story is a twee love-story with friendly, quirky characters.

The connection between the stories is minimal. They both include lonely lovelorn policemen, while the women could not be more different. The use of uniform in the second story is constantly reinforced, whereby the profession of the characters in the first story is never specified by their outfits (in fact, the mysterious woman is almost in disguise as she claims her raincoat and sunglasses combo is due to her cautiousness about the weather, while his desire to imitate Bruce Willis hints at his inability to serve and protect).

The shuddering camera work captures the city effortlessly. We squint and look closer to make out who is on screen and how the events unfold, similar to the experience of trying to take in a busy street at night. Neon-lights and crampt spaces are a feature of Wong Kar Wai, as bodies struggle to move around each other. Strange obsessions and recurring pop-tracks add nuance to characters and almost create a hypnotic and dreamlike world that is a pleasure to be within. Sardines, pineapples and the Mama’s and Papa’s California Dreamin’ become unique, memorable assets to a film that in the characters alone, you are drawn in.

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (9)

This continues a post begun yesterday.

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One with the Blackout (Season 1, Episode 7) –

So many men relate to Chandler. His awkward mannerisms, his over-compensation with humour, his lack of confidence with women – the skinny guy knows him intimately. Personally, I always felt that Ross is more interesting, and ultimately funnier, but The One with the Blackout does show how brilliant Chandler is (“I am trapped. In an ATM vestibule. With Jill Goodacre!”). This is also the episode introducing Italian scumbag Paulo and the first man-to-man conversation between Ross and Joey regarding Rachel. “Ne-e-ever gonna happen…"

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Monday, 22 September 2014

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (10)


On September 22nd 1994, the pilot episode of Friends was screened in America. It is twenty years since that fateful moment Rachel walked into Central Perk, wearing her wedding dress. Looking around, she finds her old best friend from school, Monica. The first jokes were slightly twee, but some clumsy slapstick (Ross’ umbrella bursting as he greets Rachel) and a self-depreciating joke (Monica is the only one Rachel could turn to. Monica is the only one she didn’t invite) began Friends - the TV series we all fell in love with.

I was introduced as my older sisters watched it in 1995 on a Friday night on Channel 4. I recall the complete shock when Ross says "I take thee.... Rachel...". I sat with my best friend watching the closing minutes of Series 4 and sat with him again to watch the aftermath. I watched the entire series when it first came to DVD. Then I watched it again when I first started a girl who became my wife (a rite of passage in many ways, considering Friends taught me so much about the trials and tribulations of ‘dating’). Recently, with the new BluRay boxset release, I watched it all again. All ten seasons within three months.

With this in mind (and split over the next fortnight), here are my Top 10 Friends episodes to mark the twentieth anniversary of one of the best American sitcoms in history …

10. The One with Russ (Series 2, Episode 10) -


Trying to balance the funny episodes, and the deeply-serious (but-still-funny) episodes, is always a challenge. This episode is an example of a whole plot structured around a single gag. Rachel starts dating a character called Russ, who is virtually the same person as Ross (both are played by Schwimmer). High-jinks ensue as Russ and Ross meet each other – and immediately despise each other. Additionally, it also includes the perfect ending with a cameo from Julie (Lauren Tom) who inevitably falls for Russ.

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

This article was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Das Cabinet des Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920)

The history of cinema harks back to few films that are as important and iconic as Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. An expressionist masterpiece, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari is, for a limited time, back in the cinema. Re-mastered and screened from August 29th, the cinematic experience is a rare treat as the hand-painted backdrops and subtle face make-up can be seen up-close and appreciated in the way it was intended (perhaps even better). As filmmaking was finding its feet, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari makes use of the theatrical manner of stage and sets, but toys with the narrative device of flashback to tell its story. Like an old man telling us a tale, the mysterious narrator with his wide eyes, has his own backstory – and a memorable finale reveals all.

Almost a legendary fable of cinema already, Das Cabinet des Caligari begins as two met sit on a bench. A young man, Francis (Friedrich Fehér) tells a story to an old man (Hans Lanser-Rudolff) and we are transported to see the events unfold. A small village is introduced. Francis and his friend Alan (Hans Heinrich von Twardowski) are to go out on the town, and visit the fair, but not before they banter about their love of the local girl Jane (Lil Dagover). Unknown to the boys, amongst the glowing lights of the fair, Dr Caligari (Werner Krauss) is due to perform with his somnambulist Cesare (Conrad Veidt, who would go on to play the trumped up Nazi in Casablanca). As the two enter the tent, it is revealed that Cesare knows the past, present and future. Cesare, expressionless with piercing-eyes, tells Alan that he will die before the morning and as predicted, Alan is murdered in the night - by Cesare. Francis immediately seeks support and holds his suspicions towards Caligari himself. Even magic appears to be at play when Cesare kidnaps Jane, while Francis spies on both Caligari and the sleeping Cesare – how can he appear in two places at once? Though Caligari is the villain of the film, it seems that all is not what it seems for Francis either. 

Released in 1920, and directed by Robert Wiene, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari has become the subject of many essays, books and articles of cinema. At 77-minutes long, this is a short film that, broken into six-parts, is easy to watch and a pleasure to re-watch now it has been fully restored. Silent cinema has never looked so good, and the colour-tints and painted-sets, with their fake-shadows and sharp lines, only serve to establish the film as a work of art.

So much has been inspired by the film, such as Murnau’s Nosferatu two years later, but it has continued to this day. Danny DeVito’s Penguin in Batman Returns is clearly the villainous Dr. Caligari himself; glasses, top hat and cane included. Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, an underrated homage to psychological thrillers of the era, pays a huge debt to the plot and doctor-patient dynamic seen in Caligari. The jagged edges, and diagonal lines, would go on to influence Carol Reed’s The Third Man, which would in turn influence Spike Lee. In fact, the bizarre setting is perhaps the most memorable element. But it is worth remembering how, within a few decades of the invention of cinema, a film like this was made. Haunting and innovative, Das Cabinet des Caligari is the horror film every cinema goer needs to watch. And if you’ve seen it before? Watch it again.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Boxtrolls (Graham Annable/Anthony Stacchi, 2014)

Despicable Me has a lot to answer for. Not only has it spawned a sequel, with a “”spin-off” later this year in Minions, but it has manufactured the specific creature that little kids will die imitating (perhaps loudly shouting “bottom”, as you walk through the supermarket). But The Boxtrolls, looking like an uglier, gothic cousin to the minions, is nothing to apologise for. Looking like Aardman animation meets Abe’s Odyssey, The Boxtrolls contains much more than empty crates and annoying little creatures. More creative and considerably more profound, The Boxtrolls is much more than a Despicable Me imitator.

Boxtrolls lurk underground. They mess up the streets at night and, with their muddy boxes and cluttered manner, are feared by the community they live beneath. Stories claim they are responsible for kidnapping children and carnival-performances are played out to ensure the public know how dangerous they are.  Of course, they are no threat. Introducing Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) as the villainous, desperate older gent who seeks a place at the table amongst the upper-class (termed as the “white hats”), the boxtrolls are his sworn enemy – despite their cheeky, playful manner. Indeed, the boxtrolls themselves are creatures with love to give and we see, akin to Monsters Inc, the raising of a child in their company. Named after the boxes they wear, “Fish” adopts human-in-a-box, “Eggs” (voiced by Isaac Hempstead-Wright, aka ‘Bran’ from Game of Thrones, and looking a little like one of The Riddlers). In an innovative twist, it is the daughter of the esteemed ‘white hat’ Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris), Winnie (Elle Fanning), who clashes into Eggs one night. This forces the two to confront their differences while taking down the evil Mr Snatcher.

Of course, the synopsis could be as simple as “boxtrolls have to defeat snatcher”. But The Boxtrolls is more nuanced than that. Amongst the ramshackle underground home and steam-punk world they inhabit, there are revolutionary and bold statements made. Other than the greedy, cheese-obsessed Archibald Snatcher, very few others can be simply-defined baddies. The snooty white-hat wearers are arrogant, but considered misguided. Even the two henchmen (voiced expertly by Richard Ayoade and Nick Frost) are confused by Snatcher’s actions, as it slowly dawns on them that they are indeed “henchmen” (By the same token, the final gag during the credits goes even further as they muse on their existence, becoming one of the most intelligent and inspired jokes in animation.)

The winding tracks and creaky buildings that we walk down is a feast for the eyes. Tim Burton would surely get a kick out of the long-legged and bulging-bellies of the humans. The British tone of Aardman animation shines through, and the boxtrolls even seem to channel the trolls from Frozen a tad. But, unlike the cookie-cutter morals of most Disney and Dreamworks fare, the “makers of Paranorman and Coraline” tell a story that clearly draws parallels to our modern world. In a moment of frustration, boxtroll “fish” becomes incredibly angry, almost living up to the horror stories that we were told. It is brief and inconsequential, but a sobering moment as the parallel between anger and victimisation is drawn. In the final confrontation between Snatcher and Eggs, Snatcher tells him “they’ll never accept us…” What connects these two vastly opposing characters? Who does Snatcher believe “they” are? All is revealed when watching The Boxtrolls.

The ballooning abscesses as allergic-to-cheese Snatcher forces himself to eat brie is gross, colourful and guaranteed to make you laugh. The comedy is intelligent, the animation expert and the story is thoroughly engaging. The Boxtrolls is poignant and inventive and as much fun as it is bold in its statements.

This post was originally written for Flickering Myth

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Night Will Fall (André Singer, 2014)

It is difficult to digest the truth behind the Holocaust. The pictures in books, reconstructions and cinematic depiction of the events seem to detach us from the truth. It can feel like a nightmare that exists only in dreams and on screens. Night Will Fall manages to directly connect the nature of the truth in documentary with the horrors witnessed in 1945. Director André Singer (Producer of The Act of Killing and Into the Abyss) connects them in a manner that sharply forces history into focus. The collective efforts to murder a group of people by a brainwashed militia, consciously accepted by the citizens in surrounding villages that could smell the death, is too difficult to comprehend. Yet this definitive moment in history was captured on camera, and tasked to Sidney Bernstein and his team, to ensure that it was not lost and proved how despicable humanity can be.

Night Will Fall documents the attempt at capturing, editing and releasing the footage filmed when concentration camps were liberated (the unreleased film, German Concentration Camps Factual Survey, has been painstakingly restored by the Imperial War Museum to be released later this year). But this is a moment that changed the world. Camera-clad soldiers marched, within lines of German soldiers, towards Bergen-Belsen, unaware of what they would see. Alfred Hitchcock was involved as a supervising director, recommending the location of the camps – and their surrounding towns – are shown in the film, to highlight how close others were to the death camps. He suggested that wide, slow pans were to be used to add an air of authenticity. There was no room for anyone to imply the footage was doctored in any way. Colour film was used in some instances, footage that brings the reality closer to home. But at a time whereby millions of victims were refused entry to the surrounding countries, the rolls of film and editing that had been put in place to bring this news to the fore, was shelved. The worry was that a public outcry would mean Britain and America would be forced to take these refugees into their own country – something that, after World War II, they simply couldn’t afford to do.

Prior to watching Night Will Fall, I visited the Imperial War Museum, and specifically the Holocaust exhibition. The information contained across two floors was too much to take in during one visit, but the history of Jewish discrimination that began so much earlier that the breakout of WWII is crucial to where it ultimately led. Stories of German Jews who fought alongside their nation in WWI only to be reviled little more than a decade later, embedded itself in my memory. The fact that Night Will Fall exclusively deals with the aftermath is important. The camps and their liberation only took place in 1944. We learn from our mistakes, we’re told. In the case of genocide, it is not an event whereby we want to liberate a country and find out afterwards the mistake was made again.

These camps were in action for years, with the loss of life in the millions. Eisenhower, shown visiting the camps, surely never believed he would ever see such horror. Billy Wilder’s use of the footage, in Death Mills (as Night Will Fall documents) focuses the attention on the crimes committed by the Nazi’s. But this documentary is about the truth and the consequence of inaction. The opening moments of Night Will Fall show the bodies in piles within camps. SS Guards were ordered to move the bodies to mass graves. Their faces are real. Despite the sunken eyes and gaunt cheeks, the faces are real. The bodies are rubbery and heavy. The footage gives you a sense of the weight of the corpses, and the guards who drag them over the rubble clearly show no remorse as they appear to move them like animal carcasses. But these are lives, hundreds and thousands, of innocent lives. I have never seen such explicit and shocking film from the concentration camps. Night Will Fall coincides with the release of the originally-intended film, German Concentration Camps Factual Survey, but it is a masterpiece unto itself. Rather than explaining and recalling the events, Night Will Fall highlights the importance of film. Akin to diaries of photographers and journalists in war zones, Night Will Fall is unflinching in its intention to hold onto the mistakes we made, so that we learn from it. And in a time whereby YouTube captures every political decision (and indecision) and news crews attempt to capture every side of conflicts in Iraq and Israel, surely Night Will Fall reminds us that we need to make a change before it’s too late. Otherwise, like the cameramen in Bergen-Belsen, who knows what we will find in the aftermath.

Originally written for Flickering Myth