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Son of Saul More at IMDbPro »Saul fia (original title)

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A Holocaust Film That Deserves To Be Seen

Author: jadepietro from United States
11 March 2016

(RATING: ☆☆☆☆ out of 5)


IN BRIEF: Despite its powerful images, the film's threadbare story feels more of a plot device than it need be.


SYNOPSIS: A concentration camp prisoner goes on a personal quest to find a rabbi among the other prisoners who can give a dead child a proper Jewish funeral.

JIM'S REVIEW: 2015's Oscar-winning Best Foreign Film winner, Hungary's Son of Saul, finally has its nation-wide theatrical distribution release and arrives to our local cinemas nearly four months after debuting in New York and Los Angeles to meet Academy Award deadlines. (I will be including this film in my 2016 film list.)

Géza Röhrig plays Saul, an Auschwitz survivor and "Sonderkommando'' (bearer of secrets), part of a select crew of prisoners whose daily routine includes cleaning the concentration camp's showers and efficiently disposing of the bodies of Jewish victims.

First-time director László Nemes conveys strong images of the atrocities. He usually shows the violent acts in distant background shots, making these cruel and senseless acts more horrific and focusing on Saul himself and his numbing reaction to the slaughter surrounding him. It is an auspicious debut of a talent to watch.

The film is brutal and most effective in its handling of the daily torture and murder that befell the Auschwitz Jewish population. Its matter-of-fact telling and use of sound design and mixing heightens the tension. There is no music score to manipulate our emotions, creating an all too real experience.

But the film's screenplay, also by its director and Clara Royer, follows a rather thin storyline that, while heart-breaking, fails to make sense. If Saul's sole mission is to give a dead child a proper Jewish funeral, a human and heroic action, his incessant dedication endangers everyone around him, not to mention his ability to illogically travel throughout the camp without notice or objection. This gives our protagonist the appearance of being a foolhardy and dangerous loner, unable to show any degree of emotion or concern about anyone or anything else. This may be the trait the director wants in his character, yet it makes Saul unsympathetic and his motives and actions remain an enigma. Mr. Röhrig is good in his role, although other characters are sketchy and stereotypes of the genre (the angry rebel, the evil Nazi, the brutish bully, etc.), in need of more delineation.

Still, Son of Saul skillfully depicts the Holocaust with disturbing reality and reaches a sad and satisfying conclusion that makes this harrowing journey all the more memorable.

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Can a WWII Movie Ever go Wrong?

Author: Rob Starzec from United States
21 February 2016

Seeing this movie is like watching Elephant by Gus Van Sant (in terms of the visual style), but maybe five times more depressing. A lot of the film is done in long takes where we follow Saul's perspective from behind his head as he navigates his complex journey, interweaving between various work groups in different concentration camps.

What is both great and confusing about the movie is that the plot points are touched on very briefly. The way that conversations take place in Son of Saul are naturalistic: since the characters are aware of what they are talking about and planning, things are not overly explained, allowing the audience to fill in the information not given to them. The general ideas of the plot points are easy to follow, but multiple viewings may be required to FULLY register what is happening.

The film takes place in a matter of about a day and a half, and while the movie only runs at less than two hours, with all the long takes the movie feels close to running in "real time." Because of these elaborate long takes like in The Revenant, released the same year, we have to admire the direction and choreography involved in all of these long takes, especially considering the large amounts of extras used in the film to make it feel authentic.

This isn't a traditional narrative as far as cinema goes, but it is a great one. People die without much attention focused on each death: the characters move on, but isn't that closer to authenticity? To reality? It's been done before in films like Saving Private Ryan and Children of Men and it encapsulates the sad reality of death in war: it happens and there is nothing to do about it. This being said, some may not like the protagonist, Saul, for similar reasons, but then again this is not an uplifting movie by any means.

One last note: the film has a 4:3 ratio rather than what has become the standard: either 16:9 or 2.35:1, but this does not make the film worse by any means. This is a great foreign film from the 2010's.


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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Intriguing portrait of one of mankinds biggest cruelties.

Author: yorn-heijnen from Netherlands
14 January 2016

What makes this film so fascinating is it's style. The film relies heavily on sounds instead of visuals. It tells it's own story while the camera is almost constantly being glued to it's main character. 99% of the film consists out of close up and medium shots. This combined with the 4:3 video format adds to the claustrophobic feel the cinematography creates. In most of the shots, only the main character is in focus, being almost entirely shot with 40 mm lenses. This adds up to the great style of this film. You feel trapped in the story of the main character and need the sounds to fully understand what's happening. This is a great choice because everyone knows the gruesome details of the holocaust already and it adds to the fact nobody knows what exactly happened, it's different to everyone's perception but the sounds tell you the horrible events.

The story is simple but effective. It follows a Hungarian prisoner who has to work as an executioner, cleaning the gas chambers until he finds a boy which he assumes is his son. He wants to do everything to give him a proper burial. It's about finding the tiniest piece of dignity in the most gruesome events. When the credits rolled, it left a remarkable impression. I felt relieved it was over while also being impressed by the film at the same time.

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0 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Masterpece ( Indian Reviews)

Author: Rup Ganguly from India
4 May 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a movie about humanity amidst cruelty, a movie that speaks about human compassionate culture still surviving in the house of evil and barbarism. Son of Saul is a movie that takes you straight into the extermination camps of Nazi Germany where a Jew makes a desperate attempt to bury a young boy with proper Jewish rituals. The task was next to impossible as we has looking for kindness in a house that was host to cruelty and destruction of humanity. The beauty of this movie is that it is quiet and silent and yet filled with screams. Director László Nemes has not only captured the horrors of these gas chambers but he actually made the viewers feel the screams and horror. The scenes of holocaust were not directly shown but were kept out of focus in the background which actually was more effective for me. If we imagine ourselves present in that place we would avoid looking the killings directly and they will just remain as glances at the corner of our eye creating an out of focus smoky image in our memory. The Director captures this perfectly and the killings may not give your eyes a brutal shock but it leaves a deep impact after every scene. The sound captured in the movie was also brilliant as the dialogs were as loud as the background noises giving the viewer a more accurate picture of the place. At times you will feel you are just present with Saul peeking over his shoulders.

The movie is not about heroism, victory or a war story. Because such incidents like holocaust do not fit in those category. It is a movie about humanity trying to breath its last in the kingdom of Devil.It is a story about how invisible relations are born in the strangest of manner possible at a place where every relations are destroyed and burned in fire.

This movie shows that a good story teller can create masterpiece even on a newspaper. One does not need high budget and CGI to tell a story that etches in your memory very deep. The acting of every actor was excellent and even with a very limited dialogue they successfully displayed every single emotions of that scene. It is a movie worth watching alone. I am sure it will hit you deep inside. I am so sure...

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1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Following Saul in the hellish camp

Author: wyrzykowskikajetan from Poland
25 January 2016

Outstandingly visceral, shattering in its content and genuinely raw in its artistic form – there has never been a film regarding the World War II so devastatingly real as Son of Saul. The Hungarian drama takes the viewer to the most abominable place that have ever existed, but still manages to regain hope. Hands down, Son of Saul is a masterpiece.

Saul (Géza Röhrig) belongs to Sonderkommando in Auschwitz – he secures prisoners in the gas chamber and removes the corpses. One of the days spent in the camp changes him forever – he witnesses a young boy, who survives the gas chamber. The body of the boy, who is swiftly executed by a Nazi doctor, is then taken care of by Saul, who risks his life to bury him properly, taking the dead as his own son.

Holocaust was presented in all kinds of cinematic frame, but the filmmakers usually aimed to provide a wide context of this hellish, hatred-driven machinery of the Nazis. The Pianist by Roman Polański or Schindler's List by Steven Spielberg relied on one protagonist, exhibiting enormous suffering of the individual, but with the dramatic events of the war as the background. László Nemes discarded all the previous approaches towards this absolute annihilation – his camera follows Saul in every step, keeping closely as he wanders around Auschwitz, but never revealing too much of the horrid reality. The Hungarian director never leaves the camp, never mentions what actually happens out of the barbed-wired walls. Auschwitz is a distant planet, detached from the reality. There are piles of dead bodies, blood on the floor, fire and ashes, but most of all – there is Saul and his mission. In all that unspeakable horror, a miracle happens – a boy survives the gas chamber, which revives long-buried emotions in the protagonist.

On one hand, Nemes' film is a truly blistering portrayal of pure hatred and sadism. There is no more space for suffering, cries and begging for mercy, which all merge into one haunting cacophony of Auschwitz. There is only the hypnotizing Saul, the viewer's silent guide among the dead or those waiting to die. Géza Röhrig's performance establishes an entirely new approach towards drama acting to me – the actor's eyes say more about his internally dying humanity than any words spoken. Some might find Saul's actions completely unintelligible – just as his Sondercommando companion says: "you try to save the dead, but you bury the living as well". Ready to sacrifice his own life, Saul doesn't let till the end – proving that the Nazis took everything from him, but his dignity. And as depressing, as gut-wrenching and moving as Son of Saul is, in the end we all feel admiration of Saul's steadfastness. His courage might not be fully understood, but constitutes a beautiful tribute to humanity in its darkest, saddest moment.

The cinematography of Son of Saul is truly masterful too. The film consists of numerous long takes, which reminded me a lot of Come and See by Elen Klimov and a more recent picture, La Peur by Damien Odoul. Due to this excellent camera-work, we feel as if Saul keeps our hand, as we join him in this nightmare and witness the Auschwitz massacre. This documentary approach is strengthened by the lack of any soundtrack too – the sound is only the interior of the crematorium of the camp.

Son of Saul is harrowing in every aspect, opening a new chapter in the history of Holocaust on the big screen. Despite all the horror we witness, Nemes casts a ray of hope. Even in the darkest hour of humanity, there was a man, who fought for dignity, in his own, peculiar way. Let Son of Saul be also a monument of the past and a warning – we all should be reminisced of the hell people created for each other.

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2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Best WW2 movie of all time

Author: Louis Gur from Sweden
15 February 2016

Come and See, The Pianist and now Son of Saul, the only three movies to depict the true horrors of WW2. The world has yet to recover from the events. Every day one can find something on TV which relates to the holocaust, and at least once a week and articles regarding Auschwitz are to be published. There have been many movies made during the 21st century about WW2, almost too many. So what makes this Hungarian film stand out?

It is so shockingly realistic and grim which keeps the viewer disturbed and engaged through its 107-minute running time. We are constantly reminded of the horrific holocaust in our everyday lives, yet Son of Saul opened my eyes for what happened more than ever. The film takes place during a day and a half in Auschwitz, where we follow a prisoner who's work is to burn corpses. However, he finds moral when he wants to bury a body who he takes for his son.

Saul is the main perspective in the entire film. About everything around him is out of focus. Director Laszlo Nemes has created something beautiful yet horrific in the long takes of prisoners being brutally executed. These things are never the center of attention, but as Saul runs around the camp we see people getting shot, tortured and executed in horrific ways. Less is more is a common expression and this movie takes perhaps the best use of it.

We all know what happened in Auschwitz, we do not need close-ups of dead bodies. However, we need to be reminded of the horrible events and the sound of someone screaming is enough for us to know what is happening. Son of Saul is an incredibly intense film and it almost gave me a heart attack.

I have never dedicated so much thoughts to the victims of WW2. Son of Saul is a masterpiece that everybody should see. At a technical level, it achieves so much. The cinematography is amazing, the sound design is perhaps the best I have ever heard and everything is so well made. All the actors do a great job as well and at parts it felt like I was watching a documentary. The production design is just that good on top of all this. However, Son of Saul is so much more than just a film...

It's also a movie about humanity, choices we make and how it effects us. If the academy doesn't award Son of Saul the Oscar for best foreign language film then I don't want to live on this planet anymore.

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4 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Universal human monstrosity never ends!

Author: Dr Jacques COULARDEAU from Olliergues, France
5 December 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film is probably the darkest film on the Holocaust I ,have aver seen because there is not one single moment of non-suffering, non- torturing, non-cremating, non-exterminating with gas, with bullets, with fire. It wants to show what the Nazi version of Dante's Hell was in this very case for Jews, but it was the same for all social, ethnic or national groups the Nazis or their Ukrainian, Hungarian and other allies decided to exterminate, such as Jews, Gypsies, Russians, Communists, Socialists, homosexuals, social marginals, trade-unionists, etc. The concentration camps were not only for the Jews. Some might have escaped the concentration camps, like trade-unionists for example, but then they were hanged to lamp posts along streets to be the proper example to the proper Germans and keep everyone within the narrow limits of National Socialism.

When we have said that we have said everything that counts. In this particular case people were brought there to be exterminated and then incinerated, and they were arriving by the thousands. Those who were doing that dirty work were prisoners that were selected to survive a few months, generally four or five, and they were those who moved the new arrivals, pushed them into the room where they had to undress, then into the shower for disinfection, meaning the disinfection of the world of the vermin these prisoners were for the Nazis. It was not presented like that of course, only disinfection of the bodies before having some hot tea. They had then to sort out the clothes left behind, recuperate the gold and valuables, the papers of all types and of course the clothes and the shoes. Then they had to clean up the shower room, take the bodies to the ovens to be cremated, then bring the coal to the ovens, take the ashes away and dump them in the next door river, etc. On the other side of the crematorium some women were sorting out the suitcases and everything in them and the clothes and shoes in some warehouses. That was an industrial definitely sustainable extermination procedure that was supposed to cost as little as possible and even to bring to the market vast amounts of goods, products and commodities. Even these bodies, alive or dead were used for medical experiments to improve biological knowledge and other scientific or technical know-how.

And what the film shows brilliantly is the fact that these working prisoners were organized in a hierarchy of Ober Kapos, Kapos and then prisoners, but also in various "teams" or "brigades" that had very precisely defined duties and territories. At the same time some flexibility was necessary for things to work smoothly and the Ober Kapos and Kapos were those who could move – ordered or not though always under control – the people that were needed here and there for some special or particular missions or tasks, like repairing a lock or carrying a body to the autopsy room where some of the doctors were prisoners too, or cleaning the tables or quarters of the SS.

The film though has one more interest. It shows that some human feelings could survive in such a death factory. Saul dedicates his very last days in this camp to saving a young man he declares is his son by burying him, hence getting him away from the autopsy room, away from cremation and into the ground with the Kaddish sung by a rabbi. All that is futile, useless, pointless, and yet it is essential because it shows in all these prisoners who are just surviving for a short time and are destined to be killed and incinerated sooner than later some human feeling, respect, honor, shine. The film adds in some of them the desire to rebel, to liberate themselves from the camp, from this tyranny. That too is human: resist any tyranny by principle because yielding to it is destroying you utterly, that is to say spiritually.

As such this film is a Jewish masterpiece, and yet it is also universal. Never in any historical period humanity has been totally clean of such horror. Any regime, even the most democratic, has produced such horrors: Guantanamo and the Americans, torture in Algeria and Indochina by the French, torture in Vietnam by the Americans, Pol Pot and his Red Khmers, Mao Zedong and his Red Brigades, Stalin and his Gulag, and all the colonial wars of the French, the British, the Spanish, the Portuguese, and some other Dutch people and Germans, Russians and Ukrainians, Turks and so many more. We have to understand this film as being universal and not exclusively, specifically and narrowly Jewish. To reduce it to the Jewish Holocaust under the Nazis would be to fall in the trap of an ideological reduction of the death instinct in man.


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54 out of 116 people found the following review useful:

Should have been a short-film..

Author: CineCritic2517 from The Netherlands
19 October 2015

Son of Saul, set in 1944 Auschwitz, follows the walking head of a prisoner for 107 minutes as the head goes from place to place in the camp. In the background of the images recorded, we see the blurry outlines of corpses, blood and people walking about trying to burn as many bodies as they can. With a minor plot involving the lead trying to find a rabbi to bless the body of his son who is not his son, the movie does its best to give us an idea what it must have been like being a member of Specialcommand in Auschwitz.

But apart from giving us that idea, the movie offers really nothing else. It could as well have been a 15 minute short and perhaps should have been. After 30 minutes you really get the idea and wish for the film to finally take some direction and to stop sporting only horrible imagery and morally bankrupt circumstances. It never does however, which turns the entirety of it into little more than a brutal test of one's patience. A real shame considering the subject matter it portrays.

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2 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Not another Holocaust movie

Author: Morrigan None from Bosnia and Herzegovina
27 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Saul Auslander is a Hungarian Jewish prisoner in one of the death camps in 1944. We don't know how he got there or who he really is/was but from his blank face we can conclude that he is crushed from suffering and sees no hope anymore. Cinematography is amazing and actor Géza Röhrig was a perfect choice for this type of shooting. Through Saul's POV we can experience the life and it's horrors in a death camp even though torturing or death scenes are merely visible which was the point I believe because that's not what the director wanted to show as main story. We see that much more of it is happening which requires additional explanation but director forced us not to care.

What I saw in this film is a simple human being trying to find his purpose and positive emotions when all hope and sanity is lost. Saul wanted to bury a little boy who survived the gas chamber and was killed then by the doctors, so he said that he was his son. We don't know if he really was his son or he went insane or he just wanted to explain in that way to his group because he felt sympathy for the boy. He goes through a lot of barriers to get his body and find a rabbi for the funeral and doesn't give up in spite of his group, killing, fire etc. Was all that running for one dead body selfish or was the rest of the group selfish for not helping him but only deceiving him? But that's not all to question, there are many more shots which give a microscopic look on the group and it's members in such situations which gives this film a kind of special effect. The spectator really has to get in close to see and hear all of it.

I really enjoyed most of it, however, I am not so amazed by the ending...

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34 out of 131 people found the following review useful:

A "tour" at the heart of a death camp

Author: Peter Josvai from Budapest, Hungary
25 May 2015

For a certain type of people it is of extraordinary importance how some pieces of art (especially if in the focus of a widely spread debate) are being "judged", and I'm of this type too. I saw the film under perfect circumstances, except that days before this event I was exposed to a quotation from a review by a fellow journalist working for a major newspaper (and so given access to see the film before the secondary level of the Hungarian press to which I belong, I gladly admit). The quotation from that article was in fact a verdict, stating that "director Laszlo Nemes not only had caught up on the world's film making but went beyond". Although it was somewhat disturbing me, the situation was not new to me at all, so, when watching the film I was in a comfortable, open state of mind.

My encounter with the movie didn't turn out well though, not only did I not like it, I did not enjoy it either – whereas, however inappropriate this may sound, I enjoyed, I took pleasure in, watching Schindler' list, for example, not the mention the Woman in Gold, the latest Holocaust film-experience I have just had.

When one writes a review, I believe, s/he should share her/his experience and give an (esthetic) analysis on why that could have happened the way it did, I mean, the encounter with the given piece of art. As for my analysis, I think I did not like the fact that there was a huge gap between the (focal) "pane" of the protagonist, Saul (Géza Röhrig), and the "background".

This problem that I encountered was not of optical nature, of course. What I didn't like (and still oppose as an idea) was that the working of the Holocaust machinery at the heart of this death camp was a mere background. I don't object the "banal" approach (in the Arendt sense), I don't object that it is used as a background, my problem is that it is used as a 'mere' background. I mean, it's just there all the time throughout the whole film, without the protagonist interfering with it. The film does not even disclose his relation to the 'background' happening. He's supposed to be a 'Sonderkommando' member which brings up a whole lot of questions about how he was taking part in that mass murdering there, how he was perceiving that reality, etc, etc. But we get no depiction of his state of mind, of his character – neither of his original character nor that of his 'Sonderkommando' state. For me this was and is a problem. Cause like this, it all breaks down to a weird movie experience in which the main character is coming and going from given point A-s to point B-s, and the viewer is convicted to follow him for the appearance while s/he is actually watching, as s/he's supposed to, the continuous happening in the background.

It is obvious that the director wanted the viewer to have this "tour" through a death camp, to share this "banal" reality from a participant's POV. I have no objections to this. My problem is that in the foreground no such thing takes place which – like in other films – would involve the viewer and offer her/him an opportunity to 'internalize' the experiences of the main on screen characters. Plus, a movie needs a story. And showing a main character wanting to get from point A to a point B is not yet a story: we need to be introduced to his motives, plus we need to be "informed" in real time of his state of mind, including his relation to his mission, as well as to the background happening. Last but not least, the foreground story has to be believable and followed, you can't put anything there saying that it's the background what matters anyway. I mean, you can, but this is what – I think – it looks like.

As a fellow Hungarian, I should be happy about this film's success, but to my surprise I'm not. I'm happy about this film being made, but not about its immense success, and I know what the case seems to be, but it's not (if it was jealousy, I'd be working on it). The reason why, I think, I don't like this huge success at Cannes is because like this the discussion about this movie is over, it's impossible. It's over before it could even have started, it's over before the film's premier. So, I can only call this another negative case of "peer pressure", I think. And as for the film, I only wish that people wouldn't have had a chance to see it for themselves. Then, I believe, it would have had a positive (progressive) impact on the culture.

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