Holocaust: Alain Resnais, Night and Fog

| April 29, 2014

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Alain Resnais, Night and Fog
TOPIC 2: In her article on Night and Fog, Sandra Flitterman-Lewis suggests that the power and merit of Night and Fog stems in part from the way the film addresses the viewer and seeks to make him/her – to use Resnais’ own words – “break out of habitual ways of seeing.” In particular, Flitterman-Lewis claims that through various cinematic techniques, Resnais seeks to transform the viewer from an “observer” into a “witness” in which he or she is asked to “see [him- or herself] in the scene” (209).
Analyze and examine the cinematic strategies through which Resnais seeks to make the viewers reflect on their relationship to what they see in the film (and thus make the very act of “viewing” the subject of Night and Fog). What aim(s) do these strategies serve? In what concrete ways might these strategies be designed to get us to reflect on our relationship to images related to the Holocaust? In what sense might such strategies be an integral means to creating the “universal” message which the film seeks to convey? Can such strategies potentially lead to distortions in the representation of the Holocaust
Your task for this assignment is to write a critical essay in which you analyze one or several of the Holocaust films we have watched in this course, develop an argument/thesis of your own throughout the essay, and support it with evidence from the film(s) and from the scholarly essays you have read for each film. A critical essay is the reflection and product of YOUR OWN THINKING, based on your own analytical and critical engagement with the film(s) we watched and text(s) we read.
An outstanding (“A”) critical essay will:
?? include an appropriate, effective title.
?? include a complete and effective introduction that identifies YOUR topic, the issues and the questions to be discussed and concludes with YOUR thesis statement, to which the introduction LOGICALLY leads and for which it PREPARES the reader.
?? contain a clear and concise thesis statement, i.e. the ARGUMENT that you will advance, develop, and support throughout your essay.
?? offer a sustained, careful ANALYSIS of specific scenes in the film(s) and
? use the results of this analysis effectively as EVIDENCE to develop and support the writer’s argument.
?? effectively engage with the arguments and ideas of the scholars whose work we have read to develop and support the writer’s argument.
?? properly CITE, in according with the MLA Style Guidelines, the sources it uses (such as films and scholarly articles) through proper in-text citations with corresponding entries in an attached works cited list.
?? be well and coherently organized and have effective logical transitions between paragraphs.
? have coherently developed paragraphs that begin with a clear and concise topic sentence.
? be thoroughly revised, in particular for grammatical and spelling errors.
6-8 pages (not more – not less!); double-spaced; 1 inch margins; font: Times New Roman; font size 11.5 or 12. List of Works Cited excluded from page count.
In you essay, you should be using at least ONE of the RELEVANT scholarly articles we have read and discussed in relation to a specific film (for example, Bartov’s article about Schindler’s List would be very much relevant to an essay about Schindler’s List, but also to an essay about Shoah and even Night and Fog, in so far as he at least briefly discusses both films; of course: “relevance” is entirely determined by YOUR topic and argument). “Using” an outside source means to CRITICALLY ENGAGE with the author’s idea(s) and argument(s) and EFFECTIVELY mobilize them to DEVELOP your own argument. That means, for example, that you could use someone else’s analysis and argument to support your own; or to disagree with the author and make a different argument. However you use other writers’ arguments and ideas, CAREFULLY think about what they are trying to say first and what evidence they provide in support of their arguments; don’t accept their arguments at face value! Take, for example, Omer Bartov’s argument that the conclusion of Schindler’s List performs a “banal humanization” of Schindler. What is Bartov saying here? In what sense is Schindler “humanized” in the conclusion (he wasn’t “human” before…?), and what makes this humanization “banal”? In what sense does Bartov’s argument serve as a criticism of the film? However you use the ideas and arguments of others, remember that these arguments and ideas NEVER SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES! Thus, if you quote someone else’s idea, YOU will need to EXPLAIN it to your reader.
You MUST appropriately cite and document the ideas and arguments of others if you use them in your article (regardless of whether you PARAPHRASE or QUOTE) and for your own thinking, through proper (1) in-text citation and a corresponding entry in an attached (2) works cited list. Your citations should follow the rules set out in the style handbook of the Modern Language Association (so called “MLA Style”). MLA Style Guidelines are widely available over the internet and can easily be accessed through a google-search.
One of the keys to successfully planning and writing a high quality critical essay on one of the films is CAREFUL ANALYSIS of both scenes from the film and the arguments of scholars. For the analytical dimension of this essay, it’s good to keep in mind the following things:
1. Focus your analysis on a limited number of select scenes from the film(s). Analyze, contextualize, and interpret those scenes in detail and use them effectively as EVIDENCE to develop and support your ideas and arguments. AVOID GENERALIZATIONS.
2. In order to engage in a close, careful analysis, it will be indispensable that you WATCH THE FILMS AGAIN (or at least the scenes you want to focus on in your paper). DO NOT “CITE” AND DISCUSS THE FILMS FROM MEMORY – that will only lead to vague generalizations.
3. Focus on DETAILS in the films and individual scenes (the “things which are minutiae or detail,” as Raul Hilberg put it), focusing on elements such as:
– Camera perspective(s) and angles
– Tracking shots/camera movement
– Montage
– Light
– Sound
– Narrative
– Music/Soundtrack
– Relationship between narrative/voice and images
– Gestures
One essential element of good writing about film or literature is effective, balanced contextualization. That means that for your reader to understand your discussions, you will need to sufficiently and effectively INTRODUCE and DESCRIBE the scenes you will analyze and discuss in your essay. It does not matter that you are writing this essay for a reader (me) who has also seen the film because NO ONE has SEEN the film LIKE YOU have seen it. In other words: describing the scenes from the film IS already an act of interpretation. “Contextualizing” simply means that you need to provide enough descriptive information – “context” – for your reader to be able to PICTURE and UNDERSTAND the scene you are discussing and understand what place it has in the film.
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