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Reviews & Ratings for
Son of Saul More at IMDbPro »Saul fia (original title)

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18 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

What a disappointment

3/10
Author: fairkon
29 April 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What an utter failure. About 90% of this movie is spent staring at the back of the main characters head as he navigates Auschwitz. The story line was very one noted and not very clear.

OK so maybe the camp was accurate including details and all that but how hard is that really to attain? What does it matter anyway if the story isn't interesting.. Essentially it's about a guy that is at the end of his rope and for some reason or another decides that a young boy is his son. He then spends the rest of the movie like Hansel and Gretel searching for a Rabbi. Behind that story is shown some hints about a revolt that is going to take place. That's all.

I couldn't wait for this movie to be over.

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19 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Son of Saul evokes mixed feelings

4/10
Author: drarthurwells from United States
7 May 2016

An excellent production depicting the grim reality of Hitler's concentration camps, focusing on the story of Saul, an inmate seeking some return to normal human existence in the context of his horrible life and soon impending death.

I couldn't help thinking that Saul was nuts (which is true) in his totally futile, and compulsively driven, quest for a return to normalcy in his life. Particularly when this nutty behavior on Saul's part compromised the efforts of the other inmates to deal with their terrible situation in a rational matter that offered some real hope instead of Saul's delusionally and emotionally based actions that were totally empty acts.

The conflict here is between rational attempts toward success as demonstrated by the other inmates as a group, and Saul's impeding their efforts with his individual selfish and psychotic actions that only provide for his temporary emotional (but no real lasting) fulfillment.

Not sure why the critics, or anyone else, loved this one.

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21 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

I got irritated

6/10
Author: vanderbas from France
8 November 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The first 30, 40 minutes of the movie are absolutely brilliant and moving. What a great idea to focus on one man and keep all the atrocities vague. It is no problem to fill in all the gaps yourself. Great sounds. But later on in the movie it gets difficult to still understand the protagonist. Maybe he is really getting crazy - which I would understand - like another reviewer states. But his way of doing gets annoying at a certain point. Also some scenes are not very clear. At the end, Saul started to irritate me. Jeopardizing the lives of others.

My main problem with this movie is: it is a movie, not a documentary. The immensity of the Holocaust can't function as a laissez-passer for a weak script.

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21 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

Overly Self-Conscious and Void - Like a Child Trying Too Hard at Show-and-Tell

4/10
Author: ken558 from Singapore
13 May 2016

'Son of Saul' started off with a refreshing burst, but barely a quarter in, it meanders on its own overly self-conscious showiness. It becomes painfully obvious that there's a director and production crew behind it trying too hard to drive the impact and be different, resulting in a showy look-at-me stilted performances from its actors and even the set screams "wow aren't we just realistic and meticulous in our details", like a bratty girl twirling her hula-hoop in a vigorously attention seeking manner.

The core motivation of Saul in trying to get 'a random son' buried is …… nada. The entire essence of this movie pivots on this core 'motivation'. Without it, there is only the mundane uninteresting idiosyncrasy of Saul - drifting in the sea of all the other equally mundane idiosyncrasies, all of which are equally uninteresting.

The actors (both the clothed and the naked) are way too healthy and lackadaisically bland in their appearances and attitudes, lacking any anguished sense of desperation and despair. As you watch them and the overly-crafted sets, you can't help but be 'constantly aware' that you are watching actors and extras and movie sets going about their motions as directed.

Even the constant background chattering sounds consciously deliberate and staged. And the Nazi officers - another bunch of one-dimensional caricatured bullies … same cartoonish-cardboard ones you find in WWII comedies, action genres, dramas, you name it.

Hence, even after over an hour into the movie, there is no immersion of oneself into the proceedings of the plot nor in the characters.

The most realistic actors on set are the ones playing the dead bodies, but even then their positioning and the manner in which they are piled and dragged around …. overly choreographed.

Why did it win the Oscar Best Foreign award? Absolutely no idea - just another no-sense award from Hollywood. Probably it gives the voters a misplaced sense of politically-correct 'artsiness'.

'Son of Saul' has become an obligatory-must-watch-because-its-won-these-bunch-of-awards. A good compelling movie it is NOT. Vain-glorious, and does not impress beyond its first 5 mins of fame.

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34 out of 62 people found the following review useful:

Astonishing

10/10
Author: (gsygsy) from london uk
25 November 2015

This film is an astonishing tour-de-force. I don't recall seeing anything like it before.

Fictions set in Nazi concentration camps need to be handled very carefully indeed if they are not to diminish, even trivialise, what took place there. Such films are difficult to criticise, because their subject matter is not only historical fact, it is also the ultimate depravity of human beings. Art must deal with it, because nothing can lie outside of art's sphere, but really it is not a fit subject for bad art, such as Spielberg's Schindler's List. With its beautifully-played violin theme and its clever girl-in-the-red-coat in a black-and-white film, Spielberg used the vocabulary of a Hollywood movie to present this profound subject. Nothing that even its very committed actors could do was able to ground the piece in a convincing reality. The result, as far as I was concerned, in spite of what I'm sure were the best of intentions of the director and his team, was little short of repulsive.

Since seeing Schindler's List I have steered clear of films attempting to depict life in the camps. I haven't seen Life is Beautiful, for example, nor The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. For all I know, they are works of genius. Son of Saul definitely is: not only does it not betray the cruelty, the tragedy of the camps, it brings it home in such a vivid way that it is sometimes extremely difficult to watch. But it is necessary to watch. In fact, it must be watched more than once, because it is not only emotionally draining, it is also amazing technically, but because it sweeps you up in its reality, it is impossible to take in the technical achievements on only one viewing.

Son of Saul was directed by László Nemes, written by Mr Nemes and Clara Royer, and photographed unnervingly by Mátyás Erdély. Saul himself is incarnated by Géza Röhrig, superbly leading an excellent ensemble.

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33 out of 61 people found the following review useful:

It is a film that should not be missed

10/10
Author: Howard Schumann from Vancouver, B.C.
18 October 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

While no movie can fully capture the madness of what life in a concentration camp must have been like, Làszlò Nemes' Cannes Grand Prize Award winning Son of Saul, his first feature film, may come close to recreating the experience. Written by the director and Clara Royer and shot in 35mm with a 4:3 aspect by cinematographer Mátyás Erdély ("Miss Bala"), Son of Saul explores the moral dilemma of a group of Hungarian Jews known as the Sonderkommandos who were forced to collaborate with the Germans at Birkenau in exchange for preferential treatment in the way of food and living arrangements, even though the bargain extended their lives for only a few months.

Set in 1944 only months away from liberation, Géza Röhrig is Saul Auslander, a Sonderkommando, inducted on his arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau under the threat of death and given the task of emptying train loads of new prisoners, telling them lies about fresh coffee and an offer of employment after their shower, then, under the supervision of the SS, shutting the doors and standing to one side, listening to the screaming and crying. Saul's job does not end there, however. He is charged with removing the bodies, referred to as "pieces," from the gas chambers, confiscating any valuables they may have, and incinerating them in outdoor pits.

With the camera always focused on Saul, breathing down his neck like the Dardenne Brothers' camera in "The Son", he moves around swiftly going from one job to the next showing little outward emotion among the confusion. He stops long enough, however, to witness the body of a young boy still breathing after having survived the gas chamber. He will not remain alive for long, however, as he is quickly smothered by the camp doctor and his body removed for an autopsy. Apparently recognizing the boy and claiming him to be his son, Saul's seeks a Rabbi who will say the prayer for the dead (Kaddish) and give the boy the required burial according to Jewish law and tradition.

When he is not performing business as usual, Saul's desperate attempt to find a Rabbi takes up much of his time and he is accused by a fellow prisoner of being more concerned with the dead than with the living. Though there is no narration and a minimum of dialogue (spoken in a mix of Hungarian, German, and Yiddish), Saul's expressive face reveals a cauldron of intense emotion, more than any language could hope to reveal. We never learn anything about Saul's background, whether he was married or even had a son, but, in his desire to provide Kaddish for the boy, he is asserting his humanity in the face of barbarism.

It is a daunting task given the circumstances of the arrival of more victims daily, and the clandestine plans being made for a prisoner rebellion, an extraordinary example of physical resistance but it is Saul's singular act of rebellion that adds a dimension to the suffering that transcends its apparent meaninglessness. Unlike Tim Blake Nelson's 2001 film, "The Grey Zone" which covered similar territory but succumbed to standard Hollywood treatment, Nemes keeps graphic content to a minimum and relies on the viewer's imagination, wisely letting the horrors to be assimilated through suggestion and an intentionally raucous soundtrack. Son of Saul is not an easy film to watch, but it is an important and even a necessary one and, in its own way, both a horrifying and strangely beautiful one. It is a film that should not be missed.

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11 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

First-time Hungarian director's effort ably captures atmosphere of Nazi genocide, but lacks dramatic conflict

6/10
Author: Turfseer from United States
31 January 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

First-time Hungarian director László Nemes has been quoted as saying that he didn't want to make a film like Spielberg's Schindler's List, which he dubbed too "conventional." Nemes insisted on creating a different kind of Holocaust drama, where the emphasis was not on the survivors but on those who perished—pointing out that surviving the Holocaust was an anomalous affair.

Nemes' protagonist is Saul Ausländer, a native Hungarian, who worked as an Auschwitz Sonderkommando (a group of prisoners given special privileges by the Nazis in exchange for assisting them in the extermination procedures and clean-up duties at the camp). Despite being housed away from the crematoriums and given a few extra meager rations, the Sonderkommandos were marked for death when it was deemed they had completed all the work required of them by the Nazis. After the war, some Sonderkommandos were treated as war criminals and shunned by the survivors.

Ausländer discovers that one Hungarian boy has survived inside a gas chamber. His life is brief after a Nazi doctor suffocates him and orders an autopsy (to determine why this particular boy had survived). Ausländer insists this boy is his son and arranges to gain possession of the body so he can find a Rabbi to perform a proper burial. Was the boy really his son? At one point, Ausländer states that this was his son from a woman he never married. That kind of statement makes one believe that Ausländer could have been telling the truth. But he could have said that to justify his actions with his fellow inmates—they of course regarded his belief as a delusion and that he was "more interested in the dead than the living." An alternative way of looking at this is that this is how Ausländer could find some measure of redemption inside such a horrific environment—by arranging for the boy to be properly buried, he would be thwarting the Nazis' aim to desecrate the body as well as giving his life some purpose amidst the horror.

Nemes' technique is to shoot the entire movie close-up from Ausländer's point of view. The camera never pulls back so we can see the "bigger picture." Since everything is shot close-up, we can only catch glimpses of what's happening all around the beleaguered Sonderkommando. We never see the Jewish victims being gassed inside the crematorium. But we can hear their screams and terrifying pounding on the steel door as Ausländer stands right in front of it. Glimpses of the bodies (called "pieces" by the Sonderkommandos) are briefly seen being pulled out of the gas chamber and Ausländer and his associates must clean the blood on the floor so none of the new victims get any wind of what is about to happen to them.

Nemes' decision to shoot "close-up" has the effect of distancing the audience from the horrors that are not seen directly. In one respect, this distancing effectively makes the horror more palpable—if the audience takes in too many horrifying images, they may become numb to it all. On the other hand it defeats Nemes' purpose which is to emphasize the emotional connection with the audience—we're supposed to be shocked by the inhumanity (not sheltered due to not seeing the "whole picture"). The 1985 Russian film, Come and See, had a similar "distancing" problem— the subject matter concerned the massacre of civilians in Belarus by the Nazis and their collaborators. Unlike Son of Saul, Come and See was shot from a distance, not close-up. But the result was the same: the horror was not horrifying enough.

The value of films such as Come and See and Son of Saul is that they convey the "atmosphere" of genocide. From a distance, one might perceive the Nazis' actions as a macabre carnival where the perpetrators continually enjoy themselves as they commit repulsive, sadistic acts.

Nemes also fulfills his promise not to give the wrong impression that the Holocaust was a story of survival. The final, gripping scenes in Son of Saul make it clear that there were virtually no survivors. Ausländer may have found some peace that he was able to save his "son" from desecration, but those whom we were rooting for throughout the narrative, are mowed down by Nazi bullets, the sound of which occur effectively off screen.

Son of Saul is less effective as a drama due to lack of a singular antagonist. We rarely get to see what the personalities of the perpetrators are like. There is one really telling scene where a Nazi officer mocks Ausländer, dancing around him and speaking in pidgin Yiddish. But for the most part, the Nazis here are faceless entities. It might have been more interesting if their genocidal actions were seen from their point of view.

Finally, Ausländer's journey is too one-note and repetitious to be effective. We get the idea of what he is trying to do early on—it may be noble but his plan is aimless and ineffectual. Paul Ranier writing in the Christian Science Monitor echoes my sentiments: "Nemes's Saul- centric stylistics grow wearisome after a while, because Saul, blank- faced throughout, never really comes to life as much more than a symbolic martyr."

Son of Saul is certainly up there with other Holocaust films that depict the horrors from a sensory and auditory perspective. This may be the only way to effectively convey what occurred in the extermination camps. Nonetheless, somehow the human element is missing here—which of course would involve fleshed-out multi-dimensional protagonists and antagonists, and the conflicts cogently enumerated between them.

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30 out of 56 people found the following review useful:

A fine holocaust masterpiece

10/10
Author: alpar_r from Paris, France
18 June 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Saul fia" is a Hungarian masterpiece. It presents the holocaust from a very particular point of view. Before, cinema presented this horrible spot of the mankind from a "global" angle. Spielberg's "Schindler's List" for instance takes care basically of the global fate of the people in the death camps. In contrary, "Saul fia" focuses to the individual, hence we see (or we suspect) all the horrible events through the eyes of Saul, a Sonderkommando member. These people (chosen from the Jews) actually do the dirty jobs, the ones which are even worse than the death itself: they have to witness the killing of their own family members and friends, then burn the corps, clean the gas chambers and even shovel the ashes into a river. One can find no words, indeed.

During the whole film, we are on tenterhooks and one hopes that a salvation shall come for these people. The only "redemption" that Saul found is to bury decently the corps of a young boy, that he recognizes as his own son. Actually the boy survives the gas chamber and he is killed "manually" by some German doctors in front of Saul. No words, again. The desperate search of Saul for a rabbi gives a sort of meaning for his life, which has already been burned together with the others in the fire, even though physically he still lives. Despite the fact that the Sonderkommando members shall be liquidated soon, he keeps looking for a rabbi. Even when there is chance to escape, he doesn't leave the body of the boy behind. Hundreds of thousands are killed, burned and can be left behind, but this boy is special. We shall never know for sure if he was Saul's son, but even dead, he gives an immense power and motivation for Saul.

Telling this unbelievable story that shows the upper limit of the cruelty of the man and the disregard of the human life, this movie remains a fine masterpiece. László Nemes has profound ideas, the movie showed that he deserved the Grand Prix at Cannes. Géza Röhrig is a very deep person, who can share something more, something personal as a message of the film. The cinematography is amazing, one has the feeling that there are almost no cuts, the camera just follows Saul everywhere. These show also some similarities in my opinion with Iñárritu's "Birdman". This special style has born in the last years and in my opinion it is very interesting to see it independently in different contexts, in two different parts of the world. It is a very-very painful, and a very deep movie. I hope that we shall hear about it also during the next Oscar nominations.

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31 out of 59 people found the following review useful:

TIFF 2015 -- Son of Saul: Expect a little more than an education

9/10
Author: Brap-2 from Toronto, Canada
11 September 2015

Easily tagged as a Holocaust film (but shouldn't necessarily be), 'Son of Saul' explores the perspective of a Sonderkommando named Saul — a German Nazi death camp prisoner who's job was to aid with the disposal of gas chamber victims — who finds a dying boy from the chambers and attempts to give him a proper burial who he claims to be his son, all during his time at Auschwitz. The film is uniquely shot from an over-the-shoulder perspective that keeps the viewer entirely focused on Saul, but still with the motions and actions surrounding him very noticeable (thanks to absolutely brilliant sound work in order to help achieve the eerie feel). 'Saul' reaches certain pinnacles of significant discomfort during scenes of execution — in the gas chambers and the burial pits — and a stone-faced Saul can do nothing but be forced to listen or watch.

At points, the viewer feels claustrophobic when being ushered from the trucks in the middle of the night to one's fate. While the main story of Saul's attempt to give his "son" a proper Jewish burial is what drives him — already accepting his own fate — the film goes beyond the typical WWII Holocaust story where you might only hear of incidents. In this film, the viewer is thrust upon into the fray of Hell, constantly following Saul through several one-shot takes that leave you wondering what is waiting for him.

A word to the wise: this film prides itself on authenticity, realism, and truth; 'Son of Saul' is painfully poetic.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Maybe there is something that I didn't get.

6/10
Author: shivamt25 from India
28 August 2016

One thing can be easily said, it is definitely a great movie. There is a tension build which is so strong that you feel you are there standing right next to Saul. The camera is set as if the director wants the audience to stay with Saul the whole film(almost the whole movie). This helped us analyze every situation which is faced by him. The grave expression on his face tells a story in itself altogether. The background is faded, but you cannot help but notice everything that is going on around him. It is gruesome, but not the one the director wanted you to focus on.

The thing which I don't get was the ending. Also, I think there may be some problems with the subtitles I was using because some of the dialogues made no sense at all. That is why i gave it this much. I will surely be watching it again some day because it is one of those movies which you don't forget. Even if you don't get it properly. :)

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