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So this won the Cannes Grand Prix and the Golden Globe and Oscar for
foreign film. So this must be a truly excellent film, especially since
so many people here seem to be of that opinion, right? I admit:
technically, this is a new approach to the theme, in which the face of
the protagonist reflects all what is happening around him, and in which
an excellent, well-thought sound design carries over the horrors that
remain at the edges of the frame. And yet, I'm one of the handful of
reviewers who are rather disappointed.
I admit this is because of my partial Romani heritage. At this point, especially with what's been going on in Europe (and particularly Hungary) over the past years, a film that manages to give passing reference to gay and Soviet Auschwitz inmates - and STILL ignores the presence of Sinti and Roma - isn't just unconsciously overseeing the issue. Romani organizations weren't happy with "Schindler's List" back in the day, pointing out that the realistic approach Spielberg chose eradicated an essential part of Romani history. I thought that critique too harsh - "Schindler's List" is a masterpiece of storytelling and it would not have been part of the story to include references to Birkenau II. This film, however, could have easily avoided this negligence, and if you find it hard to understand why anyone should be mad about that, I suggest you watch another Hungarian film, "Just the Wind" (2012). That one gives you an idea of the perpetual hell of Romani existence.
Yet like a number of German critics also pointed out, what really gives me the creeps about "Son of Saul" is the frame composition, with ample use of naked bodies out of focus, and an extensive use of nudity as a symbol of helplessness. I cannot help but agree that this constitutes Holocaust pornography. The images are carefully constructed to elicit shock, yet do not contribute to the story - as was the case in "Schindler's List". The film is carried by the structural idea, which is not at all an original one, but reminiscent of classic Hungarian cinema - particularly "Red Psalm" (1972) by Miklós Jancsó and the work of Béla Tarr, whom this director assisted.
The story, simple as it is, is in fact unrealistic if you go by the memoirs of Roman Frister or Lucie Adelsberger (to name just a few) since there was no freedom of movement corresponding to what you see in this film. The pointlessness of the protagonist's actions, clear to all around him as well as himself, also run contrary to what I've read from survivors, who very clearly describe what animated them and what the dynamics within the inmates were. So if you've not read any books and haven't watched any testimonials or documentaries, I'm afraid this film can easily misguide your perceptions of what the Holocaust was, and deliver and imprint so strong that it may be hard to challenge by more factual depictions. Yet this is of course an extremely important work in the negative sense, in that it shows just how easily content can be styled to elicit a specific response and garner an avalanche of awards.
Perhaps my judgment would not be this harsh if this wouldn't ring so close, and if Hungary wouldn't have the human rights record it has under Orbán. But considering the film culminates in an uprising - if you've devoted some time to the study of Auschwitz, you may understand why I cannot help but wonder when, finally, will there be a film about May 16th, 1944 in Birkenau II. It's very much needed, and the story is so powerful that it wouldn't require as much technical finesse.
This is a film in which the director has decided to destroy it with his
address. It could be a movie since the actors are very well, everyone,
well let's say the Jews, because the truth is that those who interpret
Germans do not know. It gets so much into the nape of the head that not
only do not see many things that happen but if we did not already know
the story of what happened, the Nazis would pass almost unnoticed,
bone, does not give you the option to see how bad were.
It's a shame because the film would be great, it has enough material to make it great. The idea is for everyone to identify but I at least can not get into the movie, with that camera that does not let me see anything.
This makes it cold, but not because the photo, which is not a wonder, is, if not because it does not reach you at all. At least it does not transmit anything to me.
As I said the address is very bad, the photo, little thing, only save the makeup, the hairdresser and the wardrobe and is that apart from costing a lot of money is quite easy.
In short, after a long disappointment
I saw this film today and I totally didn't like it. Awful, idiotic and
pretentious. There is this Jew prisoner who wants to give a dead boy a
proper burial. That's right, right there in the concentration camp. Are
we supposed to believe this? And even if that could happen how are we
to relate to that completely insane and idiotic person? Well some
people liked it!
OK I haven't served as a prisoner in a concentration camp but I can think of a couple things I could do there and giving a boy a proper burial is not one of them. I could maybe try to escape, revolt or just provoke them to kill me.
Also in most films taking place in WWII all Germans and mean literally everyone is bad or worse. This film of course is no exception. At least in "the pianist" there was one German who treated the protagonist nicely.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I feel guilty for posting this review, for I think Saul fia is
brilliant in many ways, and I want more film makers to experiment, and
tell their stories in a creative and original fashion, like László
There are some minor spoilers in this review, but not any that would ruin the movie for you.
The part of the movie which will probably get the most attention is the way that almost the entire image (which is small, "academy ratio") is at all times mostly focused on Géza Röhrig's character Saul. The camera follows Saul more closely than you have seen in a movie before, often leaving very little room for other than his head. The most obvious reason for making the movie this way is that it forces you to "complete" the setting using the sounds provided. Even though you do get some good looks at the horrible things happening at the concentration camp - I'm sure you will remember much more than what is actually shown on the screen. If this had been the sole reason for filming this way, it would have been a really good and memorable gimmick. But you can also see how this helps tell the story of Saul. Saul has been mentally weakened by the time he has spent in the camp. We don't learn too much of his back story, but we learn enough to know he has been in better condition than he is as the movie starts. The Saul you meet from the beginning of the movie seems all alone in the world. He blocks out the others (and the travesty happening around him), resulting in an entirely selfish personality. This is reflected by the way the movie is shot, because in the screen you see only what he sees: Himself.
Another thing I really liked about this movie is how real it all felt. Obviously I do not know much about how life really was like in the camps, but the way this movie handled it felt real. Previous movies I have seen about the time spent in concentration camps makes it seem like everything is organized and controlled, but in this movie, the chaos of it all makes it all seem more real. And all the extras feel like they are supposed to be there, and have been given clear instructions on what to do. For a movie that leaves so much of the background to the imagination, they really did work hard to make what it shown pretty much flawless.
So why do I only give it 6 out of 10? I am not sure. By focusing on an "anti-hero", the other prisoners seem all the more human, as they are almost always friendly with Saul, despite the things he does. But at the same time, I completely lost interest in Saul's project, his motivations and how his story would end. To me, the movie only works if you look away from what's in the dead center of it - Saul - and it might be that I am not a good enough watcher to be able to do this. I appreciate the film and can completely understand those who love it. But because I can not help myself from focusing on Saul's story, I was often times bored with the movie. I do not mind Saul being an unsympathetic character, and I'm fine with him being an anti-hero. But I wish he had traits that made him more compelling to watch. Because I can't be more specific than that, I'm also open to me not being a sophisticated enough watcher.
Not as good as expected. The movie may be artsy but the storyline stinks. It's is not a documentary, but a fictitious story of Saul, a worker at a camp deciding that a dead boy is his son and what he attempts to go through to bury him is thin. Yes, the scenes in the background are horrific, something the artsy types at film schools like. But the movie is slow, limited dialogue, and a lot of long scenes were so long, you can speed things up with fast forward and miss nothing. Basically the movie falls flat and is a waste of time. I give it two stars because the background scenes that depict the horrors from a perspective of Saul are well done. Do not like the shakiness of a hand-held camera that had to track this perspective throughout the movie, or the full screen format, one can overlook those. Overall there are far better movies about this period such as Black List or the Counterfeiters. And if you really want to learn more about this period pick up the book Mans Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl who chronicled his experiences as an Auschwitz concentration camp. Or Auschwitz: A Doctor's Account by Dr. Miklos Nyiszli who was spared from death because he was personal assistant to Dr. Josef Mengele, known as the infamous "Angel of Death." These are real stories by real people. There huge difference between this type of reality (the books) and a fictitious movie.
Few movies have affected me on such a deep and emotional level like Son
of Saul. I walked into the theater having no idea what the subject
matter was, or read any reviews, so I wasn't sure what to expect. What
I witnessed was one of the most difficult and trying pieces about the
Holocaust, and a bond between father and son during the most horrific
By now, many of you have read about the unique style and focus of the film. Shot in 35mm, each shot does not fill the screen. There is only one focal point throughout the film, which means people and objects that are close to the camera are in focus, and everything in the background remains out of focus (except for a few shots where we do not center on Saul). This unique and somewhat unprofessional style is an absolute benefit to the overall story that unfolds before the audience. I was sometimes glad that you couldn't see some of the horrors that were happening all around the main character, but you can tell very plainly what's happening.
The story is actually a short one, it takes place in only about a day and a half, but the content of this story is what makes it stand out so brilliantly. Most films about the genocide of the Jewish race during the holocaust have a very broad perspective, showing multiple events to various people who were living through one of the worst horrors man has ever inflicted upon man. Usually these films, like "Schindler's List" focus on some savior and the survivors of such events, or even worse movies like "Heart's War" which fictionalizes a history that is almost insulting to watch. Son of Saul is a much more personal and heart-wrenching story of one prisoner who works under a Sonderkommando labour groups within the walls of Auschwitz Birkenau. There is a definition of such groups at the beginning of the film, and it tells very plainly what their duties were, under threat of death.
It is very difficult, or rather naught and impossible, to comprehend the level of horror prisoners had to live through during the extermination of their own race, but that is where this film is most successful. It achieved something that I very rarely experience during a film. This is when I cease to remember that I am at the cinema watching a movie unfold before me, and for quite some time, believe that I am right there, bearing witness to these events. That is the true goal of cinema I believe. To have the viewer in complete empathy with what is happening to the characters as the movie progresses. And I was completely and utterly entranced.
This film is not for the faint of heart. It is horrifying and unbearable at times, but is absolutely unique and utterly phenomenal to watch. A fantastic first for both director László Nemes and lead Géza Röhrig.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The movie is a strong audio-visual and emotional representation of what
it was supposed to be like living in a concentration camp during the
Holocaust. The senses are bombarded with loud sounds, screams, scenes
flash before us, ghastly scenes of pain, suffering, hatred, inhumanity.
Saul appears from within that stress of constant nerve-wrecking
pressure, death and sorrow, as a flower blooming on a deserted field,
with his obsession to fulfil an obligation, a mitzva. Suddenly the
entire life that until then seemed so pitiful, impossible and desolate,
that was run according to the strict rules and punishments of others,
now has a purpose.
The acting is amazing, that gaze of the eyes of the actor Géza Röhrig playing Saul, the entire expression of all emotions is channeled through those eyes. Those deep dark eyes of his that will haunt me.
The portrayal of the concentration camp is so painfully "true-to-life" that you are on the verge of wanting to leave and run away.
And that is one of the strongest qualities of the movie: on one hand, you are on the edge of the chair with the discomfort of experiencing the concentration camp, yet on the other hand, you are hooked on Saul's obsession and you are cheering inside yourself and praying for the completion of the obligation he has set himself.
I am an amateur in the film industry, a mere fan for over 30 years, but I have rarely been shaken as by this one.
At the end of the screening at the Sarajevo Film Festival, I looked around to see a full-theatre now almost empty, save for a few shell-shocked individuals like me, not surprisingly including Atom Egoyan. Genocide trauma is handed down through generations and our own exploration of the past.
"Son of Saul" (2015 release from Hungary; 107 min.) brings the story of
a Jewish Hungarian man named Saul. Saul works/is forced to work as a
"sondercommando" in one of the German concentration camps (Auschwitz?
Birkenau?). As the movie opens, the camera focuses on Saul as he goes
from job to job, leading the next wave of Jewish prisoners towards the
gas chambers and closer to their death. Then, miraculously, a young boy
survives the gassing. A German doctor quickly smothers the life from
the boy, and orders an autopsy. Saul, however, wants to provide a
proper burial for the boy and desperately seeks to find a rabbi among
the Jewish prisoners who can say the 'kaddish' (burial prayers). To
tell you more would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to
see for yourself how it all plays out.
Couple of comments: in my life time I have seen quite a few movies that focus on or relate to the WWII concentration camps. I can honestly tell you, though, that "Son of Saul" is a unique film. The primary reason is that (i) the movie is shot in almost 1:1 ration, actually probably more like a 4:3 ratio, and (ii) the camera focuses mostly on Saul, and rarely do we get a full-blown shot of what goes on around him. Not that we don't know, and certainly when you add the outstanding audio-soundtrack, we know all too well that this is living hell, and worse. Bodies are laying about, we hear the furnaces, we feel and recoil as chaos and pure evil unfolds. It all make for a very harrowing movie, but one that is unforgettable. It is often said about the holocaust that we should never forget. Let me tell you: "Son of Saul" will make you never forget. Géza Röhrig in the role of Saul brings an epic performance, with little dialogue, but body language that speaks volumes. I am going to go on record right now that "Son of Saul" will win Best Foreign Language Movie Oscar in early 2016.
I saw "Son of Saul" during a recent home visit to Belgium. The early evening screening where I saw this at in Antwerp was attended okay but not great. That is a darn shame, but on the other hand, if you are simply looking for a 'good time at the movies', I don't know that I would recommend this, as it's simply not that kind of movie. On the other hand, if you believe in 'important' movies, and on top of that it happens to be a top-notch quality movie, you cannot go wrong with this, be it at the theater, on VOD or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray. "Son of Saul" is HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
The story, and motivations of the lead character are not captivating in anyway. Focusing on one mans desire to bury the body of one of the many children massacred in a concentration camp, there appears to be little or no meaning in any of it. On top of a slow, laborious storyline, this film is highly depressing, and serves no purpose in the world. Great films are supposed to inspire emotion, and preferably more than just sadness. This film is not the great event that some quarters make out. Sometimes, the grittiness of independent, foreign language films catapults their reach and appeal. For me, this film is a classic case of that phenomenon in action.
Because the camera is stuck near the head of Saul the whole time, and most things are out of focus, the film makes you dizzy already after 20 minutes. The film is not really telling anything, just follows a guy who behaves unreasonably. There is nothing explained, you have to fill everything with your own knowledge of the holocaust. That is all what happens, there is nothing concrete in this movie. I am Hungarian, so I was happy one of our films got famous, but it seems that it became true what I was afraid of, it got the Oscar only because it is about the holocaust. therefore it was a big disappointment. Don't waste your time, watch another Hungarian or another holocaust movie depending why did you chose this one.
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