Director: Jan Nemec
Starring: Ladislav Jánsky, Antonín Kumbera, Irma Bischofova
Language: Czech, German
Duration: 63 min.
The tense, brutal story of two Jewish boys who escape from a train transporting them from one concentration camp to another.
Diamonds of the Night is the feature film debut from Czech New Wave director Jan Nemec, based on Arnost Lustig's autobiographical novella titled Darkness Casts No Shadow (Tma nemá stín). It was awarded the Grand Prize at the 1964 Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival.
An intense psychological tale about two young Jewish boys who escape from a Nazi train, the film follows them as they wander through the forest looking for food and shelter while a local group of elderly volunteer peasants hunt them down.
Nemec creates an incredible stripped down film that explores his characters state of mind rather than follow a traditional storyline. There is little to no dialog at all, relying on the characters thoughts and actions as well as the handheld camera that intimately follows the two unnamed youths as they trek endlessly through the woods. Quick flashbacks and other surrealistic images are often shown, and scenes are frequently repeated with different outcomes. These non linear sequences are used to represent their thoughts and memories, products of both hallucinatory fantasy and an unforgiving reality. They give a real sense of the terrifying physical and mental ordeal they face in their struggle for life. Along with these visions, sound is also used to heighten this harrowing mood, with exaggerated sounds of rain, footsteps, gunshots and in one particularly disturbing sequence, the awful sound of mouths chewing that echo like in a brutal nightmare.
A dark and relatively short film that is at times uncomfortable to watch, but is original and a powerful achievement in direction and editing, especially for a debut. Impressive enough for me to call it the first must-see-film of the Czechoslovak New Wave.
— Bonjour Tristesse