Two unnamed boys in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia are seen fleeing from a train on its way to a concentration camp, gunshots heard behind them. Wide-eyed and full of fear, they rush through the woods, where they set up a temporary hut from branches and straw. The boys spend the next few days living purely on rain, air and adrenalin, growing ever closer to nature, until they happen across a farmhouse. One of the boys stumbles into the place without thinking, and we experience his train of thought as he stares into the eyes of the farmhouse’s resident, a timid housewife. In a panic, he reaches forth to steal a few slices of bread, and the boys continue their escape. Their petty crime is not without consequence however, as they soon encounter the stubborn local mercenaries who plan to execute them.
At 63 minutes, it’s quite a short jaunt vis-à-vis the emotional clout of the historical backdrop, and sometimes it feels as if it ought to have been longer (rather like this review). Much of the first two-thirds is wordless, allowing the striking images to tell the story. In fact, one of the bigger selling points of the film is its raw photography. Often handheld, the camera is simply another character, sharing in the urgency of the boys’ situation. An exemplary cinematic symbol – ants crawling over the skin – is used but not justified. Overall, Diamonds Of The Night is an intriguing little slice of post-WWII cinema, hugely ambitious but not entirely successful.