Diamonds of the Night Screen 4 articles

Diamonds of the Night

1964

Diamonds of the Night Poster
  • It’s an almost unbearable work of suspense, and a sobering counterpoint to the vague, muted ennui that typifies the mood of what we might call a cinema of the comfortably oppressed. A need of exertion for subsistence is acknowledged in these films too, but its urgency is more often than not convoluted in a mutable haze of options.

  • This remarkable directorial debut (1964) by 27-year-old Jan Nemec is a bleak, alternately realistic and hallucinatory examination of four days in the lives of two young escapees from the Nazis; its mood of desperation and paranoia works a grim magic.

  • In 64 fleet minutes, we’re utterly and overwhelmingly immersed in a Jewish fugitive’s singular experience, from hunger pains to hallucinatory reveries. Nemec’s technique is as emotionally intuitive as it is masterful, purposefully scrambling past and present, handheld realism (a breathless opening tracking shot) and Buñuellian surrealism (fever-dreamed ants colonizing Jánsky’s angelic face). It’s a torrent of life—and cinema—in the face of death.

  • Its opening images—of two nameless young men sprinting desperately through a field, fleeing from a pack of invisible pursuers as gunshots echo in the near distance—waste no time building momentum or laying down exposition. The effect is startling: it’s as if the film has been playing for an hour already and we, its dozing viewers, were just now snapping back into focus.