Night and Fog appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The picture seemed surprisingly strong given the age and genre of the production.
Sharpness looked quite good. The source material occasionally turned a bit soft or indistinct, but not frequently. Instead, the image usually seemed well-defined and accurate. Jagged edges and moiré effects appeared absent, and I witnessed no signs of edge enhancement.
As one might expect, a mix of source defects cropped up throughout the film. Mostly I saw running vertical lines, but debris, marks and specks also manifested themselves. Those appeared during the historical shots; the then-contemporary images of the camps looked very clean.
Even the pre-existing footage was less flawed than I anticipated. Sure, quite a few concerns were there, but they didn’t come across as heavy or prevalent. The most distracting issue affected shots of a train as it rolled out; those bits looked jumpy and fluttery. Otherwise, the movie was largely free from problems.
While most of Fog used pre-existing black and white footage, then-new color shots of the camps appeared sporadically through the piece. The hues looked somewhat subdued, but they seemed smooth and fairly accurate nonetheless.
Black levels varied dependent on the source, but they were fine across the board, and low-light sequences also displayed no significant issues. It feels kind of odd to nitpick the visuals of a movie such as this, but it appeared that a lot of effort went into the transfer for Fog.
The film’s LPCM monaural soundtrack also seemed reasonably positive for its era. Speech could appear somewhat edgy and coarse at times, but the lines mostly displayed acceptable accuracy and natural qualities.
No effects appeared during the production. The score was surprisingly rich and full given its age. The music never really leapt to life, but it sounded fairly vivid and tight. The track seemed clean and free from source defects. Overall the audio was fine.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2003 Criterion DVD? Audio was a little smoother, but there wasn’t a lot that could be done with the source. Visuals showed the expected improvements in terms of definition that come with Blu-ray.
Print flaws remained about the same, though this was a conscious choice. As a text intro notes, director Alain Resnais preferred that the source visuals be left with age-artifacts intact, so the archival footage maintained those defects.
The Blu-ray mixes old and new extras. Lasting five minutes, 20 seconds, we get a 1994 interview with director Alain Resnais. Recorded for a radio show called “Le Etoiles du cinema”, this clip tells us a little about how Resnais came onto the project, but it mostly focuses on a controversy that almost resulted in major cuts to the film. It’s too brief to give us much information, but it adds a bit of useful material.
Two new features follow. An Interview with Filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer runs 15 minutes, 29 seconds and offers his thoughts about documentaries in general and specific aspects of Fog. Oppenheimer presents a moderately engaging take on the subject matter.
From 2009, a documentary called Face Aux Fantomes lasts one hour, 38 minutes and 51 seconds. It features historian Sylvie Lindeperg as she reflects on French reactions to concentration camps and aspects of Night and Fog. A conversation with historian Annette Wieviorka also appears.
Though Lindeperg provides some good information, the lifeless format makes “Fantomes” an extremely slow documentary to view. Though punctuated with occasional archival elements, most of “Fantomes” simply focuses on “talking head” shots of Lindeperg. That set-up makes the show monotonous and distracts from the content. “Fantomes” comes with useful details at times, but the dull presentation makes it a drag.
Finally, the set comes with a booklet. It contains an essay from film professor Colin MacCabe. Note that this isn’t the same content found in the 2003 DVD’s booklet; the 2016 Blu-ray also drops an isolated score and “Crew Profiles”.
A powerful account of the Nazi concentration camps, Night and Fog tells its tale well and creates a strong look at the horrors that occurred in these places. However, its strength also becomes something of a weakness, as the graphic visuals make the movie very difficult to watch at times. The Blu-ray presents picture and sound that seem quite good given the age and nature of the project, and the smattering of extras bring a little to the package. This is a fine presentation of a difficult film.
To rate this film visit the original DVD Review of NIGHT AND FOG