Diamonds of the Night DVD
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Directed by Jan Nemec
Produced in 1964
Main Language - Czech with English subtitles
The brilliant debut of Jan Nemec, best known for his 1966 film The Party and the Guests, Diamonds of the Night was one of the first major masterpieces of the Czech New Wave, explains Michael Brooke.
The brilliant debut of Jan Nemec, best known for The Party and the Guests, Diamonds of the Night was one of the first major masterpieces of the Czech New Wave. You'd never guess that it had a literary source: Holocaust survivor Arnost Lustig's autobiographical novella is stripped to its barest essentials, jettisoning almost all its backstory and dialogue (the film barely needs subtitles) in favour of delving deep into the psyches of two boys as they flee a German train during WWII and desperately try to evade both capture and succumbing to extremes of cold and hunger.
Nemec emphasises the physicality of their situation (the restless hand-held camera is almost a third character) while also letting their memories and fantasies pop unbidden into their waking thoughts in a series of initially disorientating 'flash-cuts', either to specific details or to vaguer impressions of warmth and comfort. In this respect a shot of pillows airing on a windowsill on a hot summer's day is as potent as the more overtly Buñuelian images of ants crawling over hands and faces.
Michael Brooke on 23rd March 2010
Author of 135 reviews
One of the most startling and thrillingly original works in cinema, Diamonds of the Night from Jan Němec (The Party and the Guests), was voted by New York critics as one of the best films of the 1960s. It follows the tense and desperate journey of two teenage Jewish boys who successfully escape from a train bound for a Nazi death camp. As they run through unfamiliar terrain, their escape is interpolated with their dreams, fantasies and memories. Ultimately hunted down by a band of armed men, the film goes beyond the themes of war to concern itself with man's perpetual struggle to preserve human dignity.
Publisher: Second Run
Length: 64 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Cat No: SECONDRUN045
Format: DVD B&W
- Booklet featuring an essay by writer and film historian Michael Brooke
- Filmed appreciation by Peter Hames
- Photo gallery
by Barry Forshaw on 16th February 2010
The director Jan Nemec's debut feature, this is one of the most original and innovative products of a glorious period of Czech filmmaking from the 1960s. Using little ... Read on
The director Jan Nemec's debut feature, this is one of the most original and innovative products of a glorious period of Czech filmmaking from the 1960s. Using little dialogue, the narrative describes the terrifying journey of two teenage boys attempting to survive when they escape from a German train on the way to a Nazi concentration camp. Both the impeccable use of stark cinematography and soundtrack create a disturbing masterpiece. Hide