7.6/10
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11 user 23 critic

Diamonds of the Night (1964)

Démanty noci (original title)
Diamonds in the night is the tense, brutal story of two Jewish boys who escape from a train transporting them from one concentration camp to another. Ultimately, they are hunted down by a ... See full summary »

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(story "Darkness has no Shadows"),
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ladislav Jánsky ...
1st Boy
Antonín Kumbera ...
2nd Boy
Ilse Bischofova ...
The Woman (as Irma Bischofova)
Ivan Asic
Jan Riha
August Bischof
Josef Koggel
Oskar Müller
Anton Schich
Rudolf Stolle
Josef Koblizek
Josef Kubat
Rudolf Lukásek
Bohumil Moudry
Karel Navratil
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Storyline

Diamonds in the night is the tense, brutal story of two Jewish boys who escape from a train transporting them from one concentration camp to another. Ultimately, they are hunted down by a group of old, armed home-guardists. The film goes beyond the themes of war and anti-Nazism and concerns itself with man's struggle to preserve human dignity. Written by Anonymous

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Drama | War

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Release Date:

14 March 1968 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Diamonds of the Night  »

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Referenced in Na plovárne: Na plovárne s Agnieszkou Holland (2017) See more »

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Walkabout
27 August 2010 | by See all my reviews

This movie does weird things to me. Not weird in the way of the surrealists, in the way incomprehensible that is like listening to someone talk to a microphone in a large empty hall from a different room, most of it is booming echo and static hiss but if you pause and concentrate now and then a word becomes audible so that after a while the bits and pieces of information form a whole that may not be coherent but is meaningful and whole upon its partial self. This does weird things to me in the way that there's no microphone and no one to talk to it if there was one and you're just sitting there in the large empty hall and you begin to hear words out of thin air.

When it came out mainstream cinema didn't know that language. It's a bit like what a captured Aztec chieftain in chains could tell Spanish audiences of the jungle. Diamonds of the Night tells a story, but that's not all it does, and that's not all it cares about. It tells an experience of life as lived dreamed or hallucinated. It doesn't even describe it to the viewer, it lets the viewer inhabit the experience. The movie opens and we're running through the forest, guns go off in the distance, we're being chased and we're digging our nails in the dirt running uphill and scrambling for cover. Now we're huddling together for warmth in the cold of the night and now we're back in time and memory to relive a broken shrapnel of life as it once was or as we now think it to have been.

Czech New Wave films were usually lighthearted and humorous snapshots of everyday life and they were not removed from their audience. To the extent that they were avantgarde business, they were rarely contrapuntal to a cinema that could be enjoyed by the average Czech who could pay the price of a movie ticket. When Milos Forman or Jiri Menzel showed the foibles of the common folk, they showed it not to amuse or inform the intellectual, they showed it to that same common folk who may still have a father living back in a village. They confirmed life as the people who lived it knowed it to be. Diamonds of the Night is not like that.

It's hard, demanding, cinema that will not appeal to everyone. There's very little dialogue and the storytelling does not follow arcs. It's cyclical and elusive and suggestive of other things that may or may not have happened or happen again as they did, like somebody is after us and we're running in the forest, we're running in circles and now and then we run through the same clearing that we recognize and we see ourselves running through that clearing.

I love this movie so much because it relates an experience of life that I may have dreamed, or an experience of life that I didn't dream but that's how I would dream it. Two escaped inmates of a Nazi concentration camp run from their unseen captors, in the end we see the captors and director Jan Nemec (in a masterstroke of irony, his last name translates to "German") is saying all manner of beautiful things, about innocence torn asunder and about the regenerative cycle of life, about things that will happen again as they did because that's the way of nature. I like it so much because it suggests things about stakes and games, in this case the hunt is the game and human life is the stake, and a game without stakes is no game at all. If the players don't stand to lose something, the game is a game not worth playing, and if the players didn't enter the game of their own accord, as seems to be the case here, yet we find them on the game table does that mean they are not there by some other accord? I adore movies that deal with fatalism in dreamlike terms and Diamonds of the Night does that.

The beauty of it for me is that it doesn't even matter that they escaped a concentration camp and that Nazi hunters are involved. It leaves out the pomp and circumstance and solemn contemplation of the "WWII drama". This could be about any two young people being hunted through any forest for any set of reasons. But someone is being hunted and there's "truth with malice" in that hunt...


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