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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The movie Son of Saul is a religious movie about a little, 11 year old boy who actually survives the blast of gas inside the gas chambers in the Second World War. He is lifted out of the corpses of naked bodies and is put on a table. A man listens and hears his breathe - in and out - inhale and exhale. This is like the breathe that God breathes into Adam in order to create man. This breathe is very significant and represents all of human life. Saul understands this meaning and wants a religious leader to mark this miracle - of surviving the holocaust ovens and breathing outside the gates of hell. Saul searches for a rabbi. It is unclear in the movie if a rabbi is found, as I do not have enough knowledge of what being a rabbi entails. Saul did find someone who I think could have been a rabbi - but the burial for the small boy who survived the gas chambers was never completed to the end. There was an attempt made but then they had to flee again. I believe that the boy transformed into a German Spy when he was left to drown - half alive in the river. The river must have awoken the boy and he went to where Saul was hiding to witness him one more time. Saul was then delusional and thought the young boy was wearing Nazi clothes and a informer - but this was the holy child not an informant. Saul was hallucinating. In the end Saul gets shot to death - but not without giving up, withdrawing and being internally defeated first.
This movie is for an audience who can digest to watch cruel and horror scenes. Otherwise this is not for you. There is not great emotion but full of moments of pain and cries. It was interesting to see how the camera captured the main characters very fluid. The running time is not too long and just perfect. Saul delivered a respectable performance and I am curious to see him in other future roles. This film works more on a documentary level about the Jewish holocaust in the Nazi concentration camps than a Second World War movie. It should remind all the war crimes in our history of humanity. God bless all the people murdered by the Nazi. 6/10.
This movie is very devastating. Of course, when it comes to the
Holocaust everything is devastating to watch. But the way this was
created, with one character the camera follows around everywhere, this
will drain almost everything out of the viewer. The feeling is real,
the emotion is as real as it gets and it could not be more in your face
if it went up someones nose.
Of course that is not necessary, there are far more grueling things (even if not explicit put on the screen, because they happen outside the frame) that will be there for us to witness. Schindlers List was more personal in terms of following someone who was trying to save people. Here you have someone who is just trying to survive. And he has his hands full with that "task" as you will be able to see. It may be without color, but that just enhances the viewing and the cruelness depicted. I can't imagine anyone being left untouched by this. Unless you don't like the way it is filmed (you could compare it to the "Found Footage" style, but would do this movie a big disservice to put it even near that area)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had to rack my brains on this 6/10 rating - I honestly didn't know
where to rank the film. It was good enough not to be bad, if you know
what I mean? The camera-work cheapened the entire film for me. Perhaps
it was because of lack of financial budget, but filming everything in
POV and blurring the background meant that we didn't get treated to a
proper feature film and had to mostly use our imaginations for what was
going on in the background. Frankly, I found it quite tiresome. It
reminded me a little bit of a Lars von Trier film in its sense of
hopelessness. bit without the spiky twist.
I'm sorry my negative attitude towards this film - it wasn't awful at all, but the 'plot' wasn't interesting enough to hold an entire film. As an onlooker, I could sense right at the beginning that the boy wasn't Saul's real son, through his lack of reaction to the suffocation scene, so I had to work out for myself that Saul was obviously totally desensitised and quite deranged.
Again, I have to admit how sorry I am for wanting more entertainment from this film, and not getting it. I feel a huge compassion for all the people involved in the real-life horror of concentration camp Nazi Germany, especially as a father myself and the thought of losing my own family in this way, but this still doesn't make the film an entertaining viewing experience, even for the sick kicks I was looking for.
I need something more visual and spectacular I'm afraid, like Schindler's List or The Pianist.
And perhaps this film deserves a second or third viewing to fully appreciate its horrors, but do you really want to watch it again?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The main story here concerns the efforts of one man to give a small child the respect and burial he deserves after a brutal death at the hands of the Nazi regime. Right from the very beginning the focus is on Saul with the background being out of focus and the soundtrack allowing us to imagine that we are Saul and experiencing what he would be experiencing. The latest arrival of prisoners are herded towards the showers by their own and with the promise of food and work to prevent mass panic. The only way to survive for a short time is to do the bidding of the Nazi regime. The outcome is inevitable. The young boy (barely) survives the gas chamber, is mercilessly killed and so the story develops as Saul attempts to find a willing rabbi, attempts to get information of the horror to the outside world and attempts to survive long enough to try and live what life he has left with some purpose. A dark chapter in the history of mankind and although the cruelty and horror of the Nazi death camps is not the main theme of the film, it's the theme that will get to you the most. Superbly acted and filmed, Son of Saul will have an impact on you. Your morals and ethics will be examined when you watch this masterpiece. One of the, if not the most, deserving of films to be recognized and awarded by its peers.
Saul fia is a masterpiece that goes deep into the horrors of the
Holocaust. Director László Nemes makes a feature film debut that is
spectacular. The camera is astonishing and the performance of Géza
Röhrig is breathtaking. Without showing much, we can hear the screams
of all of the innocent men, women and children who were massacred and
gassed by the Nazi Germans & Austrians. The macabre task of the
Sonderkommando is brilliantly depicted in this film.
I confess that I cried the first 15 minutes of the movie. Saul fia is really hard to watch, but it is a crucial work of art for this cybernetic and superficial century where the Holocaust seems already out of fashion. The film shows in an unorthodox way the macabre gassing described by the few testimonies of the few Auschwitz Sonderkommando who survived the war (Shlomo Venezia, a Jewish Greek Sonderkommando, prisoner number 182727: Sonderkommando. Dans l'enfer des chambres à gaz; Filip Müller, a Jewish Slovak Sonderkommando, prisoner number 29236: Sonderbehandlung. Drei Jahre in der Krematorien und Gaskammern von Auschwitz; and the shocking drawings by David Olère, a Jewish Polish Sonderkommando). Dario Gabbai, prisoner number 182568, Shlomo Venezia's cousin and one of the last remaining Sonderkommando saw Saul fia and praised the film.
In my opinion Saul fia should have been nominated in all the categories and should have won ALL the Oscars (Best Movie, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Actor in a Leading Role). Saul fia triumphed at the Cannes Festival and got the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year.
Saul fia is a MASTERPIECE with capital letters. Something for never forgetting what Germany & Austria did and what they never paid for. The film is in Hungarian, Polish, Yiddish, German, Russian, French, Greek, Slovak & Hebrew, and it depicts brilliantly the chaos of languages (the Tower of Babel) of the Nazi extermination & concentration camps.
A must see. Definitely, the best movie of 2015, and, in my opinion, the best movie about the Holocaust ever made.
The best: the cinematography (Mátyás Erdély), absolutely pioneer, the breathtaking performance by Géza Röhrig, and the music (László Melis).
The worst: nothing.
Impressive movie about concentration camp with realist setting ,
top-notch acting and evocative cinematography in 35 mm . The film was
met with wide critical acclaim after its world premiere and has
subsequently been submitted as Hungary's official entry for Best
Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards . This excellent movie
deals with the horror of 1944 in Auschwitz , the infamous extermination
center , capturing an insightful portrait of hell and the spiritual
experience and focusing the story of a man wanting to bury his assumed
son . Thus , when the incoming transports , mostly Jews , SS soldiers
made instant decisions , those who were fit to labors were sent into
the camp , others including the children , were dispatched immediately
to the gas chambers where approximately one-quarter million Jews were
executed . There a prisoner , a ¨Sonderkommando¨ is forced to burn the
corpses of his own people , then he finds moral survival upon
attempting to save from the flames the body of a boy he takes for his
son , and he subsequently looks for a Jewish Rabí . At the end takes
place a rebellion and a breathtaking , exciting getaway .
This terrible picture is well set in Auschwitz , it was a painful extermination camp of killing of Jews including children . We see horrors , murders , massacres against the prisoners but from a particular sight point , the starring : Geza Rohrig , who gives a very good acting with his subjective vision . Along with Geza , there appears a lot of fine but unknown Hungarian actors such as Levente Monar, Urs Rechn, Tood Charmont, Sándor Zsotér, Marcin Czarnik, and Jerzy Walczak , all of them display magnificent performances ; including their realistic mélange of Hungarian, German and Yiddish dialogue . Atmospheric cinematography by Mátyás Erdély , the outside scenes were shot only with natural light , it is fully aware of the quality of light , relying on natural light for outdoors . This Hungarian Cannes prize-winner that won a Golden Globe in the "Best Foreign Language Film" category in 2016 and critically heralded Holocaust film began what is likely to be a multi-month run , calibrated in hopes of winning the Foreign Language Academy Award as well as to maximize grossing potent . It is a dark and serious flick , a splendid movie about the brutal existence at concentration camp and subsequent breakout from horrible place . The picture is based on real events , as Auschwitz along with Sobibór , Chelmno , Belzec and Treblinka were five large death camps in the Lublin district of Poland transformed into extermination centers to implement the policy of genocide thought at the Wannsee Conference . All the concentration camps were under the command of SS Odilo Globocnick . There was some minor industrial activity linked to the war effort but the main work was the execution of inmates . Victims were brought to the camp in unventilated transports , and all but a handful were gassed after arrival , the gas chambers could accommodate hundred prisoners at one time , most of their corpses were burned in open pits .
Filmmaker Laszlo Nemes , his debut feature , avoids both , melodrama and violence , giving a thought-provoking as well as intense description about the hard existence in Auschwitz . Director László Nemes stated on cinematic inspirations : ¨Come and see¨ (1985) by Elem Klimov was a great source of inspiration for me ; however the film bears remarkable resemblance to ¨The grey zone¨ (201) by Tim Blake Nelson . Nemes took testimony from present witnesses , he made a real investigation labour and had particular help of prestigious historians as Gideon Grief , Philippe Mesnard and Zoltan Vagi . Nemes wanted to convey something that goes against the perception through films, that it is a mixture of organisation and chaos . Lazsló called Nobel prize-winning Hungarian writer and concentration camp survivor Imre Kertész an inspiration to make this film . He took records from known documentary ¨Shoa¨ by Claudie Lanzmann , especially the actual testimony from Abraham Bomba , as well as of the ¨Memorial of Shoa¨ , with a book titled ¨Voices under the ashes¨ also titled ¨The writings of Auschwitz¨ .
Oscar winner: Best Foreign Language Film of the Year - Hungary
Saul is a Sonderkommando, a prisoner in a Nazi death camp, working in unloading bodies from the gas chamber.
The movie has a unique style. It's shot in 1.37:1 AR, all hand-held following Saul in extreme close-up, his face taking almost half the screen in shallow focus, making everything that happens in the background shown out of focus, almost the entire movie. It gives a claustrophobic feeling and focus on the lead character, almost like a third-person perspective, almost being a part with the actor as things happen in the background, somewhat detached from the horror around him. Some of the scenes are very long continuous takes (such as the first shot of the movie, 3.5 minutes long).
Production value is good, making the film seem quite authentic, although hard to grasp everything due to the out of focus shots during the entire movie.
The story felt quite shallow and the motivation of the lead character still remains unclear and illogical to me. In the end, the plot felt empty and missing. It felt like a small story, but its importance was showing some of the terrible things that happened in the death camp.
In addition, the main character is a Sonderkommando, working with the Kapo and basically collaborating with the Nazis in order to save himself in a somewhat selfish way while watching masses of people being murdered like animals. He's part of the Nazi machine that lies to the victims in order to keep them calm just before killing them. Obviously, it makes it much harder for the viewer to identify and feel empathy for the character.
All in all, I expected a lot more from this movie. I expected a more profound story and in that respect I'm disappointed. I also expected to be a lot more moved, but the movie kept you pretty detached from the feelings, in addition to feeling ambiguous for the main character (as I mentioned above). On the other hand, they managed to recreate quite an authentic atmosphere and production value is very good.
I felt a bit of influence from COME AND SEE (1985) (especially toward the end of the movie) and based on IMDb's trivia, the director indeed cited that movie as an inspiration.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I recently read in Slavoj iek's new book "Against the Double
Blackmail" that there once was a Jewish Holocaust survivor who,
seemingly overcoming the trauma of Auschwitz, continued living his
life, got a good education, a well- paying job, became a respected part
of his community and a good provider for his family. However, when
interviewed by a journalist, he bluntly admitted that he hated all
Arabs. No reason for it really, he just couldn't stand them - all of
them! Shocked by this statement, the journalist told a friend about her
curious interviewee: "How can someone who was subjected to the horrific
system of the concentration camps because of his Jewish religion, echo
the Nazi's dogma of hating an entire group of people because of their
ethnicity?" To which her friend answered: "Well, what did you expect!
Auschwitz was not a place where people went to learn anything,
especially anything about humanity or tolerance."
We have to acknowledge more than that absolutely nothing good came from the Holocaust: it's effect on everyone was only bad. Not that everyone involved, including the victims, broke bad, but that it creates the opposite of what you need to become a better person. And we see in Son of Saul the prisoners of Auschwitz on the verge of hopelessness and zombiedom, and especially in Saul's case, on the verge of madness. But this is not the real Holocaust, this is a movie. Movies are about the human spirit, and just like The Pianist, Schindler's List and La vita è bella, this film shows us the human spirit overcoming the human spirit-destroying machine that was the Holocaust. Notice Saul and the comfort he finds in the (usually) traumatic act of seeing his dead son. (It is not his real son, however, just a dead body he is projecting his hopes onto.) Notice the rabbi attempting suicide immediately after Saul reminding him of a religious verse. How do you hold on to your humanity when that is exactly what will break you, given the circumstances are horrific enough?
How broken do you have to be when burying your son is the highlight of your existence? How dangerous is hope in this situation? Saul's fellow prisoner accuses him of caring more about the dead than the living, but when your day- job is cleaning an Auschwitz gas chamber, can you really afford either hope or to care about anyone, even yourself?
We see this world through Saul's perspective, who is not able to look directly at the horrors around him, hence the bodies are out of focus, and Saul's back is filling parts of the screen for most of the film. This brilliant and claustrophobic camera technique respects the dead by not using them simply as a gory shock-effect, yet at the same time making the shock even more horrible by forcing the audience to exercise their own imagination, and giving them the nightmare of realizing: "does light-brown out-of-focus blobs in the back of the elevator are human bodies!" Escaping Saul's point of view to look at him from the other prisoner's perspective, we realize how damaged he is himself. What do you think about your fellow prisoner who has kidnapped a dead boy, keeps him in his bed, and carries it with him when you escape?
By the end, when Saul and his fellow prisoners successfully escape the camp and are on the run, he loses his son when trying to cross a river. Notice that even though he is outside the walls, outside the industrial meat grinder were we have seen him at work, his only thought is still just "how can I bury my son." You are not healed by escaping, or even by the idea or hope of escaping, you need to find a new spirit. After his son is lost, the prisoners take a quick rest in an abandoned barn, where Saul finally meets his salvation. A boy stands in the doorway, looking at him. Saul smiles, he has found a living son (this is not his real son either of course)! He cares about the living again, and his arc is finally finished. This boy is a Deux ex Machina, but it works in a film like this. We accept the one good thing that happen throughout the entire movie, even if it is magical, because the Diabolus ex Machina that is Auschwitz is too powerful for a single human being to fight against anyway, especially when a minute later he and his fellow prisoners are found in the barn and murdered.
And unlike the Arab-hater in the beginning of this review, Saul's humanity is strong enough to accept all races. The first son is Jewish, and the second son is German. Saul does not care that the boy is the son of his enemies. His hope can go on living in this pure child, whoever he is, because the boy represents a new age for Germany. The boy, who has just witnessed the nightmare of the industrial Holocaust first hand, runs through the trees and back into nature, ready to amend his country.
By the time I viewed this Hungarian production, it had won the 2016
Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It is a stunning piece of
It is not just the dramatic subject matter: the slaughter of Jews at Auschwitz (which I have visited). It is the distinctiveness of the viewpoint - that of a Sonderkommando, one of the Jews forced to aid with the disposal of gas chamber victims - and the novelty of the narrow aspect and shallow focus filming with the camera always on his face or over his shoulder so that the horrors are so close and yet quite indistinct.
Depicting just two days of this hell on earth, the story-line endeavours to find some humanity in this madness through one man's wish to arrange a proper burial for a dead boy for whom he feels a strange parental bond.
Remarkably this is the debut work of both director László Nemes and actor Géza Rohrig.
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