Magazine article Screen International

André Singer, Night Will Fall

Magazine article Screen International

André Singer, Night Will Fall

Article excerpt

André Singer talks to Melanie Goodfellow about his powerful Holocaust documentary, Night Will Fall, which has a groundbreaking broadcast launch on January 27.

London-based film-maker André Singer spent the best part of two years studying gruesome images shot by allied troops as they liberated German concentration camps in 1945 for his documentary, Night Will Fall.

"It was the most appalling footage I've ever had to deal with in a pretty long career in film. You start off believing that you'll get anaesthetised to it, but you don't," he says.

Night Will Fall revolves around the making of Sidney Bernstein and Alfred Hitchcock's propaganda film, German Concentration Camps, commissioned in 1945 to show German audiences the atrocities committed in the name of Nazism, but never screened at the time.

"It was meant to show the German people the error of their ways, but events moved on and the project was shelved," explains Singer. "In the period from the liberation of the camps in April 1945 through to the Nuremberg trials, the world was in chaos. It was an extraordinary time."

'If you put graphic imagery like that in context, then it has an impact; if you show it out of context, then it's pornography'André Singer, film-maker

Bernstein, who would go on to found UK TV station Granada, had experienced the camps first-hand, having visited them within days of their liberation as part of Britain's propaganda unit.

The film he made with Hitchcock spared viewers none of the gruesome sights. Gruelling footage shows piles of decaying corpses, limbs bent and broken, empty eyes starring glassily into space; emaciated survivors and a chilling visit to a camp warehouse, piled high with children's toys, spectacle frames, chopped hair and suitcases.

Singer's film takes its title from the final words of a script by writer and future politician Richard Crossman, "Unless the world learns the lessons these pictures teach, night will fall".

Some 70 years on, Singer says he grappled with how many of these "pictures" to include in his film. "It's about how the film was made, why it was made and why it was never shown. You can't explore this without showing the original imagery, but it was a permanent concern to me throughout the production process just how much we should include," he says. "If you put graphic imagery like that in context, then it has an impact; if you show it out of context, then it's pornography. …

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