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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Diamonds of the Night (Blu-ray)
Diamonds of the Night (Blu-ray)
The Criterion Collection // Unrated // April 16, 2019 // Region A
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted April 11, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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The Movie:

Directed by Czechoslovakian filmmaker Jan Nemec in 1964, Diamonds Of The Night is the story of two boys who look to be in their mid-teens played by Ladislav Jánsky and Antonin Kumbera. When we're first introduced to them, they're running, not speaking to one another just trying to get out of wherever it is that they're running from as quickly as possible. Flashbacks throughout the film fill us in on their plight: they escaped from a train that was to take them to a concentration camp. Once we understand that, their actions make a lot more sense.

As the sixty-nine-minute film plays out, more flashbacks fill us in a bit more. We see the boys take refuge at a remote farm. When the woman (Ilse Bischofova), gives them bread but when they eat it, their mouths bleed. Before this, when one of the boys first sees the woman, his mind reels as he fantasizes first about killing her, then laying with her, and then killing her again. They need milk to soften it. They're not in good shape. When it rains, they hold their mouths up to the sky for water. The taller of the two boys has an injured footage and can't move as quickly as his shorter friend, but they stick together and do their best to survive. Eventually, they're spotted, and some old men with hunting rifles in the area give chase, taking orders from a younger man in what looks like an S.S. uniform. However, before the finale we see footage of them in a city, free, able to do as they please, enjoying a time before the war and the German occupation that occurred.

Based on the story Darkness Has No Shadows by Arnost Lustig, Diamonds Of The Night is a tense film, a somber film and a moving film. It's also impressive on an artistic level, with the film's unusual narrative structure keeping us engaged and questioning what is happening when and whether or not it be fantasy or reality that we're seeing on the screen. It moves at a very quick pace, but somehow, with very little dialogue, the film does an interesting job with the character development. We don't know these boys' names, we don't know where they came from specifically, we only know that they know their lives are in danger and that they must do whatever they can to escape those who would eliminate them. As such, we don't really need to know the specifics of their background to feel for them, we're able to simply sympathize with their situation and understand how they react to it.

The high contrast black and white visuals are strong. Nemec uses ants symbolically a few times, we see them scatter about the woods and, when the boys are resting, crawling on their faces and even up their noses. The ants are on them like the drunken old men at the end of the film, lumbering about the woods with their rifles. Close ups are used for dramatic effect quite well, not just with our two leads but with some of the more interesting looking bit part players as well. This grounds the film to a large degree, with weathered looking characters observing the boys, sometimes interacting with them, each giving the movie a bit more human drama.

The Video:

The Criterion Collection brings Diamonds Of The Night to Blu-ray on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.37.1 fullframe. Taken from a new 4k restoration of the original 35mm negative under the supervision of The National Film Archive in Prague, this is a gorgeous picture. There is very little print damage here at all and the transfer provides very strong depth and detail throughout. Black levels look great and contrast is spot on, allowing for nice, clean whites and a good gray scale. There are no obvious issues with any noise reduction, the natural film grain you'd expect to see is left completely intact, and the transfer is free of compression artifacts or edge enhancement. The very film-like image shows great depth and texture as well.

The Audio:

The Czech language LPCM 2 Mono track is also very good. There isn't a lot of dialogue in the film but when it is used it comes through clean, clear and properly balanced without any audible hiss or distortion. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

The Extras:

Criterion has, not surprisingly, put together a pretty nice array of supplements for this release starting with Loaf Of Bread, a twelve-minute short film that Nemec made as a student in 1960. It's an interesting piece based on the writing of Arnost Lustig and is presented in a nice high definition presentation with Czech LPCM Mono audio and English subtitles.

After that, we dig into the featurettes, starting with a twenty-seven-minute piece called The Golden Sixties Series: Jan Nemec which is an archival interview with the director conducted in 2009 wherein he speaks in quite a bit of detail about how he came to be a cineaste, what inspired him to become a director, going to film school and then making Diamonds Of The Night. From there, we move on to a seventeen-minute interview with Irena Kovarova, a Czech film expert and film programmer, who speaks about the cultural significance of the Czech new wave movement, some of the stand out films in that movement, what makes those films important and then the place that Diamonds Of The Night holds in that movement. Five Influences On ‘Diamonds' sees film scholar James Quandt deliver a twenty-two-minute video essay that traces the influence of certain directors and their films on Nemec's film, explaining along the way how we can see it in the finished product. Lastly, the sixteen-minute Arnost Lustig Through The Eyes Of Jan Nemec is a sixteen-minute short film made in 1993 that allows the director to explain the importance of the author's work on the two film adaptations he made from his writing.

Menus and chapter selection round out the extras on the disc, but inside the case is an insert that contains credits for the feature and the Blu-ray disc, notes on the restoration and an essay on the film by Michael Atkinson entitled Into The Woods.


Diamonds Of The Night is a tense and gripping mix of drama and suspense told with an interesting, unique and impressive visual style. The Criterion Collection has done a very good job with the Blu-ray release, presenting the film in beautiful shape, with solid audio and a nice array of extras that detail the film's background and importance. Highly recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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