Another motif that the film plays with is the idea that even when one is with something, one is still dealing with the lack of something. This is most commonly portrayed in art through the idea that even in life we are in death. For instance, the presentation of the woman who gives the boys the bread and milk: interlaced with that sequence are images of one boy hitting and killing her. Through that choice Nemec highly suggests that even in life we are in death, that all opposites are co-existing with one another at all times. Generosity and scarcity, gratitude and cruelty, existence and pain. In fact, Nemec demonstrates this to be true more than ever when one boy cannot eat the food that he is given simply because he has scurvy. This demonstrates yet another coexistence of opposites which is that with bounty there is lack: with food there is still hunger. This is comparable to the images of the people sledding in the snow: in the midst of the desolation and the barren frigidity, there are still people who are enjoying life and having a good time. In the midst of war, there is still merriment.
Another quality of life that Nemec plays with via the angles he chooses to shoot things in is the fleeting and ephemeral quality of life. Just as in life we are in death, Nemec constantly demonstrates that just as we are experiencing something, it is soon gone or soon taken from us. Nemec often composes shots from the perspective of the moving train or shoots in a manner where the camera is in seeming constant, unstoppable motion, much like the passage of time or the unavoidability of death.
This is part of the reason why the end of the film is quite so perfect because it demonstrates without a doubt just how intermingled life and death are. For example, it's not clear if the boys are in fact really captured or if it is all a dream, a day dream or a fear. The film ends with the idea of the captives and the captors. The boys are taken by the men with gun: we cut to images of the men eating chicken like savages, like wild animals and this helps to further that same theme earlier discussed: it is yet again an intermingling of opposites. The men eat the chicken like jackals and show us that even as humans were animals, even civilized we are wild. The boys are imprisoned and then walk to their death, their execution. Then Nemec deftly cuts back over to the two boys walking in a forest. Thus, even in imprisonment there is freedom and even with imminent death approach there is life with certainty. Thus, it is this particular ending which makes people accuse the film of being ambiguous and causes some to argue that one can't be sure whether or not the boys end up living.
However, the answer doesn't matter. Nemec it seems is not interested in the answer. He's interested in the intermingling of life and death and the intermingling of opposites. Nemec has created a universe where no one can be quite certain what's real and what isn't and so Nemec doesn't linger on selecting a particular answer or ending. According to this aesthetic, they're both possible and perhaps even simultaneous. Hence one can conclude that in a Nemec universe, the boys end up both living and dying at the end of the film, because they were both living and dying the entire time.
Nemec, J. (1964). Diamonds of the Night. Ceskoslovensky…