Dubus, Andre, "House of Sand and Fog," (Vintage, 2004)
Dir. Vadim Perlman. House of Sand and Fog. DreamWorks Pictures, 2003.
In the films Night and Fog (1955) and Hiroshima My Love (1959), both directed by the French film director Alain Resnais, the filmmaker attempts to speak the unspoken through the silent language of film. In other words, Resnais attempts to create a sense of the unaccountable horrors of war, even though he cannot directly convey through spoken language or any singular image the impact of the felt, lived experience of wartime Europe.
In comparing the opening scenes of both films, one sees that the director first attempts to do so with juxtapositions of beauty and horror. Night and Fog first begins with a panoramic shot of the bucolic Polish countryside, followed with images of what it contained hidden amongst its beauty, namely the death camps. Hiroshima My Love begins with shots of a lover's embrace in close-up, followed by images of the atomic bomb survivors of Hiroshima. Life and beauty goes on, horror results, and there is no answer, even the inceptions of these cinematic narratives suggest, to the viewer.
The horror of war and the inability of art to translate this into effective images or words is further reinforced in Hiroshima My Love, in the scene where the female protagonist tells the male protagonist about her lost love, a German soldier, in the hotel the New Hiroshima. Terror is a constant in this world, the narrative suggests but it is so omnipresent it has become banal, just like the lived experience of the main characters that exists in the constant presence of the reminders of greater horrors. Memory is repressed, but the truth remains. This is perhaps even more powerfully suggested in the earlier film, when a boy is killed, yet the killer is unseen. The death is real, and the pain is real, but the actual accountability does not come to the victim. Because the living killer cannot express and refuses to face the consequences of his actions, the killer's face in the film is not literally revealed. He cannot, any more than the lovers take note of the name of the hotel The New Hiroshima, although in the latter case the camera does at least register its name. At least in the later film there is some hope. Even though the protagonists cannot see the death around them, at least the filmed narrative can encompass it, while in the film about the Holocaust, Night and Fog, the cinema cannot truly render justice in the form of accountability, of seeing a killer during a killing.
Ackerman, Spencer. (2011). Afghanistan, Iraq Wars Killed 132,000 Civilians, Report Says.
Wired. Retrieved July 22, 2012, from http://www.wired.com.
McNamara, Robert S. (1996). In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam. New York:
Random House Digital.
Serfaty, Simon. (2008). A Bad War Gone Worse. The Washington Quarterly, 31(2), 165-179).
The Fog of War. (2003). Documentary about Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's
Experience. Retrieved July 22, 2012, from http://video.google.ca/videoplay?docid=-8653788864462752804.
The Guardian. (2008). Iraq Body Count: how many died and who was responsible? Retrieved
July 21, 2012, from http://www.guardian.co.uk.
The Washington Post. (2003). 'A Policy of Evasion and Deception.' Retrieved July 22, 2012,
1. The Fog of War. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified on Mar 8, 2007, retrieved Mar 16, 2007 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_fog_of_war
2. Lord of War. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified on Mar 8, 2007, retrieved Mar 16, 2007 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_of_war
3. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified on Mar 8, 2007, retrieved Mar 16, 2007 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eisenhower
4. Military-industrial complex. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Last modified on Mar 8, 2007, retrieved Mar 16, 2007 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/military_industrial_complex