Directed by Jan Němec • 1964 • Czechoslovakia
Starring Ladislav Janský, Antonín Kumbera
With this simultaneously harrowing and lyrical debut feature, Jan Němec established himself as the most uncompromising visionary among the radical filmmakers who made up the Czechoslovak New Wave. Adapted from a novel by Arnošt Lustig, DIAMONDS OF THE NIGHT closely tracks two boys who escape from a concentration-camp transport and flee into the surrounding woods, hostile terrain where the brute realities of survival coexist with dreams, memories, and fragments of visual poetry. Along with visceral camera work by Jaroslav Kučera and Miroslav Ondříček—two of Czechoslovak cinema’s most influential cinematographers—Němec makes inventive use of fractured editing, elliptical storytelling, and flights of surrealism as he strips context away from this bare-bones tale, evoking the panicked delirium of consciousness lost in night and fog.