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The Sonderkommando, the "bearers of secrets," work between the living
and the dead in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Saul
Auslander is one among them. He carries bodies, washes blood from gas
chamber floors and shepherds the living into flames. He is cold as
death himself. Yet something snaps inside him and awakens his heart.
Despite being gassed and discarded beneath a heap of bodies, a boy
briefly clings to life. Saul, roused to some kind of higher purpose,
attempts superhuman feats in order for a Kaddish, a proper funeral
rite, to be performed so this boy might have eternal life.
At once awful and beautiful. The Holocaust is portrayed in an atypical manner that is up-close and revealing in all its terror and malevolence, yet at the same time the plot and characters are inscrutable and mysterious as the human heart. Camera angles heighten the intensity and impact of the film. The camera is often face to face with Saul. It follows him around the camp, as he collects belongings from the dead, into groves of poplars to attempt an escape and to the river to shovel away the ashes. The adept acting, editing, directing, story and scenes kept me on the edge of my seat during the length of the film. Winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes and at this very moment won an Oscar for best foreign language film.
I salute Mr. Geza Rohrig for his exceptional performance and amazing acting. His facial expressions and mindset is perfect for the role and this film brings back the human experience of the holocaust to a new reality. MUST SEE!!!! I recommend this movie to both people who have no background on the issue and even to people of the Jewish faith who would like to understand better the human side of the daily sufferings. Any negative review of this movie came from antisemitic or holocaust denial sources. There is no reason to even entertain those reviews. My recommendations are based on the cinematic magic and the amazing acting skills. The director was definitely thinking outside of the box when creating such a masterpiece. It is definitely Oscar worthy.
The room is filled to the brim with happy, healthy people aged 20 to
80, who just stocked up on American drinks and candy of all sorts and
eagerly await the start of the movie. After some commercials and a
trailer, the lights dim and the last conversations between these
movie-goers come to a halt. Silence ensues.
FESTIVAL DE CANNES / GRAND PRIX, the screen states. The film begins. A seemingly never-ending scene is shown in which we follow the stoic face of a man who walks among hundreds of others, gently prodding them to move along, walk faster, go on. Everyone present in the cinema immediately knows what's going on. Silence continues.
The people undress. They are herded into the 'shower' rooms. The doors are shut. The Jews who are forced to help the Nazis murder these people are asked to throw their full bodyweight against the doors, so nobody can escape. Screams, endless screams, envelop the theater. High-pitched children's screams, men's despairing yells, women's cries and sobs. After what seems to be an eternity, the screen cuts to black and the movie title is displayed. The screams fall silent.
Filmed in a World War 2-like 4X3 aspect ratio, we continue to follow the protagonist literally head-on for an hour and a half. The 21st- century audience knows the stories, the names of the camps, has read books and seen dozens of movies about the Holocaust. But never like this. Screams alternate with silence, gunshots juxtapose stillness, life rubs in death. And through all of it, the audience is silent.
Some gasp and put their hands in front of their mouths, others have the same dead stare the protagonist shows throughout the movie. Most everyone has trouble breathing as the movie grabs them by the throat and does not let go. Silence screams from the throats of every movie- goer present.
As the credits roll, nobody talks, but everyone is in a hurry to leave the theater. Everyone wants to escape the living hell they've just experienced for an hour and a half. And everyone is more keenly aware than ever that for 15 million people a mere three generations ago, escape was not an option. The audience was never this silent during any of the hundreds of movies I saw on the silver screen. No coughs, no crunching on chips, no unscrewing of bottles, no talk. Merely silence.
As the audience shuffles out of the door, they all realize that silence is all that remains: silence screaming from the theater itself, screaming silence from the screen. They know that no matter how many books, history lessons or movies are made about the subject, it's a silence that still should be screamed, yelled and cried into the world for generations to come.
-Son of Saul (Hungarian: Saul fia) is a 2015 Hungarian drama film
directed by László Nemes. It was screened at the 2015 Cannes Film
Festival, where it won the Grand Prix. It has also been selected to be
shown in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto
International Film Festival.
--Critical reception: -Upon its release at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, the film was met with wide critical acclaim. In his review for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw rated the film five out of five stars, calling it an "astonishing debut film" and "a horror movie of extraordinary focus and courage". He ended his review writing: "Nemes's film has found a way to create a fictional drama with a gaunt, fierce kind of courage the kind of courage, perhaps, that it takes to watch it." -Writing for Time Out, Dave Calhoun also gave the film five out of five stars. Indiewire's Eric Kohn awarded the film an A- rating, calling it "a remarkable refashioning of the Holocaust drama that reignites the setting with extraordinary immediacy". -In his review written for The Hollywood Reporter, Boyd van Hoeij praised the cinematography and the soundwork of the film. He writes: "Shot (and shown in Cannes) on 35mm, often in sickly greens and yellows and with deep shadows, Erdely's cinematography is one of the film's major assets, but it wouldn't be half as effective without the soundwork, which plays a major role in suggesting what is happening around Saul, with audiences often forced to rely on the sound to imagine the whole, horrible picture." -Writing for The Film Stage, Giovanni Marchini Camia gave the film an A rating, and called it "a towering landmark for filmic fictionalizations of the Holocaust". -On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 94% approval rating based on reviews from 34 critics, with an average rating of 8.7 out of 10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Grimly intense yet thoroughly rewarding, Son of Saul offers an unforgettable viewing experience -- and establishes director László Nemes as a talent to watch." -On Metacritic, the film has received a weighted average score of 91 out of 100 based on 10 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". -Claude Lanzmann, director of the documentary Shoah, lauded Nemes after seeing the film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Saul, the dead child and his obsession to give him a Jewish bury are
the conducting line of fiction in order to show and tell all the true
characters and plots regarding the Auschwitz-Birkenau:
-Gas chambers -Auschwitz Crematoriums -the Sonderkommandos -the Sonderkommando rebellion (7 October 1944) -the character of Doctor Miklós Nyiszli and his autopsy and operating room under supervision of Josef Mengele -the four Sonderkommando photographs taken and leaked out of Auschwitz to the Polish resistance -the reception of thousands of prisoners from sub-camps to be killed -the massive killings in the open air because Crematoriums were fully booked
mainly based on writings of Nyiszli and Primo Levi even minor facts like the surviving woman after the gas chamber that was killed by pistol fire.
Other matters have not been depicted in the film:
the very privileged status of Kapos and Sonderkommando members as Nyiszli described in his book is not included in the film (it is difficult to explain the Sonderkommando rebellion if they were so privileged )
A very interesting film that I strongly recommend.
It's October 1944 Auschwitz-Birkenau. Saul Ausländer is a Hungarian Jew
working as a Sonderkommando member. They clean up the gas chamber,
clear the bodies, and collect the prisoners' belongings. One boy
manages to survive the gassing. The Nazi doctor suffocates the boy and
orders an autopsy. Saul steals the body and tries to recruit a rabbi to
give the boy a proper burial.
This is a harrowing tale. It is unrelenting and unforgiving. The point of view camera style takes the audience right into the horrors. It gives the audience a front row seat. One could almost smell the sick in the gas chamber. This movie takes hold and never lets go.
Greetings from Lithuania.
"Saul fia" (2015) is a movie you won't forget soon. It's a story of one men struggles to find some inner peace in the eye of the madness and living hell. Shoot with almost documentary style, camera never leaves its perspective of showing things from the point of view of Saul, we witness events as purely as he is. It creates this tension, which sometimes is unbearable, but at the same time i'm not sure i liked this style of cinematography, i would prefer to see some things from side.
Overall, "Saul fia" reminded me of another terrific and haunting movie about the same place and time - "The Grey Zone" (2001). If you liked this one, you should see "Saul fia" but be ware that this is not a movie for everyone.
Oscar Winner Hungarian cinema (Best foreign film) Son of Saul
" I happened to make a wish list of foreign films especially the Oscar short lists. I did see the Indian representations & was curious of knowing who actually won the foreign film category. I came to know about this brilliant film maker (László Nemes) and his work based on holocaust called as Son of Saul. This film is Hungarian and my review is based on sub titles.
So what's new on this especially after Schindler's list? Well, that's the whole point you can't be new about history bit you may have a different treatment to the context all together. This is what probably makes Son of Saul a great work. The film is a periodical experience of a Hungarian 'Sonderkommando' ( a prisoner lead in a gas chamber camp who is forced to work as a lead and do job of cleaning dead bodies) & his life in hell for one and half day. The 70mm camera puts a shallow field of vision like a war camera. His daily job in the camp was to gather dead bodies often from his own people dispose them & report back collections of private materials that the prisoners brought. Saul (his name) mainly worked near the gas chambers & waited for people to die inside so that he could go inside and clean. He eventually takes a moral responsibility to be a logical father to a dead teenage boy and provide him a proper Rabbi (Jewish) burial. The whole film focuses on his burial. The treatment of dead body's burial as a central theme especially to show human plight is not new to literature or films. Bengali literature has 'Abhagir Swargo' (Heaven for the unfortunate) and there may be more which i dnt know of. But what made Saul's short cinematic live in hell worth a compliment was the sheer depth of vision that the director offers you. You get to be like a buddy for Saul & think why is he doing this? Well we will never know why Saul actually thought a dead body as his own son. You are rational in a rational world. You walk when you have a ground. Saul had none for him so we can't judge a fair mind from him. What I also loved about this cinema is that music is almost muted. You have to hear the background score with great concentration. I simply loved this as a muted music may refer a past grace or a distant memory. Maybe Saul's head was banging with his past or maybe the lost echo of his happy days. Watch this film but in case you have limited view of world war and holocaust then consider doing some internet research before watching this film. This film is not suitable to be watched with kids (naked dead bodies) so consider that as well. What happens to Saul or the plot is not relevant for my review what still hold true is what we have learnt from the holocaust ?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Son of Saul" review =including a spoiler=
There are many premier movies of World War 2, like "The Pianist", "The Downfall", and "Devil's on the Doorstep", in the same way as other war or terrorism-related movies, like "No Man's Land", "Hotel Rwanda" and "United 93" . "Son of Saul" is the most mind-blowing one among the masterpieces I've ever seen before. When I saw this movie at a theater, I was petrified with shock of the tragedy that happened in Auschwitz about 70 years ago. Human beings, I believe, should greatly appreciate the director Nemes Laszlo and the main actor Geza Roehrig, who precisely reproduced the facts that make us want to bury our heads in the sand.
In 1944, a large number of Jewish civilians from Hungary were sent to the concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland. Some of them were unintentionally chosen for the special task force "Sonderkomando", whose job was to help the Germans' final solution to Jewish people in Europe; they had to commit fratricidal massacre while the German SS avoided doing this. One day, the protagonist Saul, who was one of the Hungarian Sonderkomandos, found his 'putative' son in the gas chamber after an execution. He made up his mind to bury his son with the authentic Jewish funeral service. Saul tried to find a Rabi among the prisoners in the camp or crowds who were going to be executed. It shows his hope to live even under the fear he may suddenly be killed or executed.
However, in my opinion, Saul's characteristics don't seem good. A Rabi whom he had asked to pray for his son was killed by the SS due to their suspicious activity while working. To make matters worse, a woman had given him a stick of dynamite for the upcoming uprising, but he lost it on his way back to the hideout because he spaced out. Although some prisoners got annoyed with his behavior, he seemed sulky and shrugged it off, and said with a sneer, "I'm just alive".
The director Laszlo and his staff tried to recreate the inside of the concentration camp there described in holocaust-related books and writings, like "Korczak" or "Sonderkomando". This attempt seems well done. Some survivors from the Treblinka camp commented about what was really done there in detail. Some prisoners left pieces of papers in secret places which detailed how obscene the camp was, so the audience feels like playing a horror video game, like Resident Evil. I guess that would be what Laszlo wants the audience to feel in this movie. These gruesome scenes remind me of the TV news about ISIS or North Korea.
At first when I saw this movie, I thought the Hungarian director can only use the old method for a 1 * 1.5 screen aspect ratio, but that was incorrect. He intended to shoot through the first-person perspective, and intentionally hid what Saul doesn't want to see from the screen. Moreover, what differentiates this movie from other ones, is that most of the characters speak their own language in Europe. In general, American movies set in Central Europe are mostly casted to the English-speaking actors, but sometimes spoil the atmosphere by speaking only in English. For example, it's a mystery why a Polish pianist speaks not Polish but English and German in "The Pianist". In "Schindler's List", the German president Schindler talks to his Jewish staff in English!
I didn't know about Hungary very much before I saw this movie, but the effort in Laszlo and Roehrig's work has roused my interest in this country; its language sounds graceful, and its history and culture are full of the vicissitudes.
Definitely a technical masterwork. I had already heard much about its sound work, but its cinematography was also quite impressive. I can't believe that Geza Rohrig got no traction at all. Well, I can, since it's a foreign-language film, but shameful. As for the film as a whole though, I can't say I quite loved it. I did love the beginning and ending of it, and I loved how simple its actual premise was while being something so deeply personal to the protagonist in the grand scheme of everything happening around him. However, I also found that it was just a little too... busy? I felt that it got kind of repetitive in all of the running around and all of the back and forth. Not to dismiss at all what very well was a realistic journey for this character, but as a viewer it made me kind of numb to what was happening. I was emotionally invested up to a point, but then some of that investment was sort of lost. I'd say its minimalist script started off as a huge strength but by the end was perhaps the reason why some of it also came off as showcasing its technical aspects to the detriment of everything else. Still, definitely a good film while being kind of disappointing.
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