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-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.
"You've betrayed the living to help the dead."
Some Holocaust movies are invariably held up against a realism template and fall short largely because that "banality" is not at all banalit is unimaginably gruesome and impossible to translate onto any screen. Yet, Son of Saul, while heavily dosing its story with the horror, succeeds because the physical terror is kept in the background and the individual suffering in the foreground.
Saul (Geza Rohrig), a Hungarian Jew, as a Sonderkommando, bought a few months of life by taking a job stripping the valuables from those who were being gassed and burning the bodies. He travels most of the film looking for a rabbi to say prayers for his son's secret burial. The introductory quote shows what another Jew thinks of Saul's mission.
Although we never know if the body is that of his son, the allegorical underpinning is clear: An act of humanity will arise somewhere in this inferno.
Director Laszlo Nemes skillfully navigates his camera glued to Saul through Auschwitz, tightly hanging on to the protagonist's face as he searches. In some ways, I was reminded of the traveling "one take" camera in Birdman.
The uniqueness of this journey is that the major horrors like gassing, burning, and burying are frequently kept in a background blur (no deep focus here) so that the humane hero can be unimpeded in his own final solution. While there are distinct minor characters, the film is wholly owned by Saul, a surrogate for us, who witnesses atrocities but remains undeterred in his quest.
Like Night and Fog, the most powerful of documentaries, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, the most child-like fiction, this film needs not crush us with realism; rather it lets us see and hear death faintly without revolting us or sending us into deep sadness. Not necessary because our imaginations will do the heavy lifting.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I, to be honest, after watching the trailer was not expecting to see
any new regarding the Holocaust. After the opening shot, I was taken
away from the 21st Century and was transformed to the terrible Autumn
of 1944 inside a concentration/execution camp. The first impression is
how brilliant the cinematography is - in the film we get to experience
the horrors from what the main character sees and what is immediately
around him. I noticed the background noise and voices of the German
soldiers - even though this film is in Hungarian, only some of the
dialogue is in my native language. I felt as though watching a Terrence
Malick film where one hears limited dialogue from the standpoint of
what our central character would hear. The hero of our story is
responsible for ushering in new Jewish prisoners from the crowded
trains into the showers where they will be gased then removing their
naked, lifeless bodies to the ovens. He finds a young boy who survives
this horror only to die shortly afterwards. It becomes his mission to
have a proper burial and to find a rabbi in the camp. Since those who
admitted to being rabbis were often killed immediately, finding one
proves to be a momentous task. Through dealing with others in his group
who want to preserve the memories of what's going on in the camps
through photos and burying letters to obtaining chemicals for a prison
revolt, Saul finds somebody to assist, but his time may be running out
as for he and many others time working has run out and they too will be
killed. Saul must deal with death daily, but it's his goal to preserve
his "sons" body or at least that's what many in audience are lead to
believe. I saw the film with an audience who did not comprehend the
nuisances or mission of what's going on. Attention, Spoilers below!!!
In his troubled mind, he thinks the found boy is his son, that's why he try to take care of a small funeral with a rabbi. In reality, he has lost his mind in those several months in Auschwitz! Since one of his fellow sufferer tells him multiple times, that he has no son but he does not care or believe in that. Or after so many sufferings, his mind just tries to set normality in something, instead of giving up. The final scene is brilliant - after escaping the camp with the covered body of this child, he starts hallucination about himself (as a child) came to him and smiles to him. The camera now follows his child alter ego running through the forest and we can see as the German soldiers arrives to their mew and hear their weapons shooting. The child disappear, camera stops moving. The end. Brilliant! Rare and very smart experience straight from my former country. Congrats for the first time director László Nemes and lead actor Géza Röhrig!
Greetings again from the darkness. Not wanting to watch another movie
related to the Holocaust is understandable. Why should you purposefully
agree to experience the misery and unfathomable horror that occurred?
The simple answer is that we should never forget one of the darkest and
inexcusable periods in human history. Director Laszlo Nemes delivers a
a different viewpoint
and it grabs us and doesn't let
The startling opening is a long-tracking shot featuring Saul Auslander (played by Geza Rohrig) and his duties as part of the Sonderkommando unit at 1944 Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. The red X on his jacket relegates Saul to corralling the next round of Jews into the gas chamber and then cleaning up for the next group. The reward of this position means the delay of his own inevitable death. It's a closer, more intimate look at a process that we have not prevented ourselves to think much on.
What we soon realize is that dialogue is minimal and most of what we see is as if we were standing right beside or just behind Saul. The shallow focus means much in our sight line is blurred, and we are exceptionally dependent on the sound what we hear often conveys more of the message than what we see. Cinematographer Matyas Erdely never allows our eyes to drift he shows us only so much, forcing our brain to process and interpret so many more clues.
The horrific proceedings may be blurred, but it's a devastating experience nonetheless. Saul's stoic face masks his true emotions and disgust, and prevents him from drawing any unwanted attention. Saul's dependability as a Sonderkommando changes in the blink of an eye he sees the body of a young boy whom he claims is his own son. He becomes obsessed with finding a Rabbi to allow for a proper burial for the boy. It seems clear that this mission is a chance to break from his soul-crushing duties and grab a bit of redemption before it's too late. Unfortunately, the timing of this mission conflicts with a planned prisoner uprising adding more complexity to a nearly impossible quest.
This is the feature film debut of director Laszlo Nemes, who also co-wrote the story with Clara Royer. Some of the specifics are drawn from "Voices from Beneath the Ashes" (edited by Ber Mark) and "Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account" by Miklos Nyiszli. It's a fearless vision for Holocaust storytelling with many open-ended issues (we don't always know identities and positions of those we see) and few conclusions provided. But then we all know the ultimate conclusion, and this look may be the most devastatingly intimate look we have ever had.
It's not a movie that allows you to kick back on the sofa and simultaneously catch up with Facebook. It demands and deserves attention and patience. Nothing here is designed to allow us a "hands off" view from a safe distance. In fact, the lack of traditional story structure and dialogue direction forces us to face the ugliest reality through a different perspective than we've ever considered. Powerful stuff.
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