Son Of Saul
Cert: 15 Year: 2015 Length: 107 mins Language: Hungarian/Multiple
Cinema Handout (PDF 87KB)
Score: 84.82% Attendance: 103
The winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Film 2016, this is powerful cinema at its best. We are inside Auschwitz, alongside Saul, a Sonderkommando - a privileged prisoner who helps to control the rest - when he thinks he has found his dead son. He cannot rest until he has found a rabbi to carry out a proper Jewish burial.
In case you think there is nothing more to be said about the horrors of the Holocaust, or that it has been gone over too often, think again; "The single-minded power and visceral immediacy of Nemes's achievement, rightly acclaimed and awarded, prove otherwise" - Philip Kemp, Sight & Sound. Eschewing the normal visual horrors of the camps, first-time director László Nemes places his camera to show only what Saul sees, or directly in the face of Saul so that we follow his reactions to the hell around him, to the hell that he is part of by helping the Nazis for his own survival: we become Saul ourselves. Much of the 'action' around us is on the edge of the screen, or the sounds we hear (as the gas chamber door slams...)
"Yet even as our eyes are turned away from the abyss, an incessant soundtrack of screams, barks, orders, gunshots, cries and whispers evokes a cataclysmic landscape of evil unbound. The effect is utterly overpowering" - Mark Kermode, Guardian.
Saul's attempt to find a rabbi also risks a planned uprising by the other Sonderkommandos; he is putting the soul of the dead ahead of the lives of the living. "We will die because of you", one tells him, to which Saul replies: "We are already dead." "Yet, unthinkable as it seems, there is a glimmer of light in this appalling darkness, infinitesimal yet inextinguishable. Ultimately, it is that glimmer that makes Son of Saul so traumatic. Days after watching it I remain haunted by Saul's face, his skin covered in the ashes of the dead, his eyes alert with anxiety and anguish, a recognisable trace of humanity in a world beyond belief" - Mark Kermode, Guardian.
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