In 1945, British Allied Forces commissioned director Alfred Hitchcock (circa “Spellbound” era) to supervise a documentary on the liberation of Nazi concentration camps. Titled “German Concentration Camps: Factual Survey,” the project foundered under political and artistic pressures. Thus, enter producer Brett Ratner and director André Singer, whose “Night Will Fall” plays HBO on Monday, January 26 at 9pm EST. Watch trailers and clips below.
The presentation combines restored, hardly seen archival footage (including pieces of an elusive sixth reel thought to be lost) and eyewitness testimony to offer an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at a film that was never finished. (An incomplete version played the Berlin Film Festival in 1984, and PBS in 1985, under the title “Memory of the Camps.”)
Newsweek has a fascinating, in-depth look at what went wrong and what this footage looks like: “Two women drag an emaciated female corpse along the ground, its head bouncing on the dirt. When they reach a large pit, they stop, give the naked body a quick tug backward to pick up momentum, then hurl it into the hole. The corpse, which looks like a skeleton covered in a thin film of skin, flops onto a mound of decomposing bodies.” (Daily Beast also digs into the making of the film.)
That description of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the end of WWII is one piece of this film, which was produced by British movie mogul Sidney Bernstein before getting shelved by the British government in August 1945– not long after the production began. Footage was said to be so horrific that there were doubts as to whether Hitchcock’s portrayal was really accurate or not. (Having seen Alain Resnais’ harrowing 1955 Holocaust mini-doc “Night and Fog,” it probably was.)
Narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, “Night Will Fall” also captures how British forces equipped, and trained, Allied soldiers to use cameras to produce hundreds of hours of disturbing, eye-opening firsthand footage.
Page Six reports on a recent Museum of Jewish Heritage screening here; “Night Will Fall” hits HBO Go simultaneously on Monday night, with VOD play beginning on January 27.