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Reviews & Ratings for
Son of Saul More at IMDbPro »Saul fia (original title)

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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Very well-acted and well-directed

Author: Red_Identity from United States
1 May 2016

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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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

See it. You'll never forget it.

Author: jdesando from United States
11 February 2016

"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 banal—it 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.

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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A very well-done film about a topic that has been done many times over.

Author: pardonemepaddre from New York, USA
1 February 2016

*** 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!

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1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Up close

Author: David Ferguson ([email protected]) from Dallas, Texas
21 January 2016

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 new approach … a different viewpoint … and it grabs us and doesn't let go.

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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2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Capturing The Holocaust in the most realistic approach possible

Author: Aaron Hemens from Ottawa, Canada
25 January 2016

László Nemes' thrilling depiction of the horrifying nature of The Holocaust in his Oscar- nominated film Son Of Saul results in a unique and original take on the experience of being a Jewish prisoner during the genocide, which captures the true reality of life inside the walls of a Nazi death camp.

The film is set in 1944 during the final years of the Second World War and tells the story of Saul Ausländer (Géza Röhrig), a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz. Saul works as a member of a Sonderkommando group, a unit composed of Jewish prisoners who are forced to aid with the disposal of gas chamber victims. One day while cleaning up after an extermination, Saul is staggered when he comes across the body of a young boy who he believes to be his own son. Saul salvages the body, and the plot revolves around Saul's quest to find a Rabbi among the hundreds of flocking prisoners in an effort to give the boy a proper and respectable burial.

The camera follows Saul around the camp almost like a documentary crew throughout most of the film, and relies heavily on close ups that limits much of the view of action around him. The outcome creates a boxed-in effect, with little or no room for breathing in the close quarters of the crammed camp. The overall tone of uneasiness in the film is captured through the anxiety created by the tight spaces of the camera, which further emphasizes the confinement that the walls of the camp create.

Nemes' decision to use long takes and few cuts gives the film a documentary feel to it, and as a result allows for the audience to have a more realistic viewing experience. The addition of shaky camera movements and uncomfortable camera angles further strengthens the realism of the film.

Sound is another powerful tool that Nemes uses in this film to capture the horrifying experience of life inside the Auschwitz camp. The use of emotional background music isn't exploited in the film, but rather the story depends on the piercing cries of those facing death and suffering to strike the audience aurally. We rarely ever see death occur in the film, but the frightening screams and desperate pleads of those facing the gas chambers is more than enough to paint the horrible image of death in our heads. Again, Nemes aims to capture the terror in its actuality.

László Nemes' debut feature film is a Holocaust film like no other. It's an experience that forces audiences to accept the harsh reality of what actually happened inside the walls of the extermination camps. It's edgy and tense, and the stylistic techniques is what makes this film so successful in capturing that reality.

This isn't a film blanketed with censorship or unrealistic Hollywood conventions. It is a film that presents the evil and horror that was The Holocaust in the most realistic manner possible.

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2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Following the Saul

Author: Alex Artist (alex-x-artist) from Belgrade, Serbia
6 December 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Is there something above staying alive or run away if you are in Auschwitz?

This movie was quite a surprise for me when I have a chance to watch it the other day. Big project which reveals the brutal truth about World War II and follows two days of a life of a prisoner from Hungary. When I says follows, I really mean follows the main actor without any shot in entire movie without him. The movie starts with the long blurry shot in which actor shows up in distance and walks to the camera and finally we can see his face clear, he starts to walk around and the camera follows him. Long shot (take), lasts 3-5 minutes. That throw us into the story without any clue whats going on. As the take flows we can understand what is going on, that much how much we are allowed. We don't ,,see the world through his eyes,,. We see him and the space around him. At the end of the first scene we find out what was and what is going on and who ,,he is,,. And we see what will make a ,,problem,, in this movie.

Son of Saul or Imaginary Son of Saul?

Movie goes on and we are introduced in their plans of breaking away. But, we are not familiar with the fact if it is really his son or his self- delusion. Even when he admits that the boy is his son, we are not convinced. Diegesis of the war? His odd behavior?

However, while the other prisoners in his command, obviously his friends in certain ways, try to finish the plan, to smuggle a dynamite and blows whole camp up, he is trying to find a rabbi and bury the boy. His dedication goes that far that he accidentally ruins their plan and make runaway a lot harder. And than when they're out (on the loose) he carries a corpse of a boy and don't try to run or hide, instead, he wants to bury the body immediately.

When you watch the film without ,,separating from him,, for the whole movie you have strong identification with main character, and you found yourself asking ,,what will I do in that situation?,,. And there is a question again - is that or is that not his son?

If that is his illegitimate son, like he said, chances that he will recognize him, and have that much dedication to just bury him properly, are very low. But anyway, give us a moment to stop and reassess moral code. Assume that the boy is his son and that he, normally, loves him, do you find moral and reasonable his act? There is something above bare life? Is that only a dead body? Is that a question of religion and beliefs? Or question of love?

And finally if that wasn't his son we can make a conclusion that situation in which he found himself has impact on his mental health.

Both can be true. Director carefully drove us to the end of the movie, without knowledge of what is truth.

And, at the end, we finally ,,separate ourselves,, from Saul, few moments before his death, continuing to follow blond boy not knowing if he was hallucination or not.

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3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

The best Hungarian move for decades!

Author: miklosi-mark from United States
23 March 2016

In the modern Hungary, people doesn't like Jewish culture too much because of bad media, and the new world order. Banks, giant companies rules on all of us. I'm a big admirer of the Jew culture because of our survival instinct.

Son of Saul is the best Hungarian/Jewish directed movie I've ever seen. Special thanks goes to our National Film Foundation and Our new Minister of Film, Andy Vajna (producer of Terminator and Rambo movies Alongside Mario Kassar)

Exciting horror/thriller without any blood.


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3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

In terms of cinematography, storytelling and emotional impact, this film is a modern masterpiece

Author: RichardAlaba-CineMuse from Sydney
16 March 2016

It is 23 years since the multi-award winning Schindler's List (1993) appeared, a critically acclaimed film that is indelibly etched into the memories of millions. The emotional defences of today's audiences are more difficult to penetrate because of the range and intensity of demands upon their finite storage and response capacity. But Son of Saul (2015) does more than penetrate our defences. It takes you by the throat and drags you into a world of unspeakable horror, forcing you to stand just inches from Dante's Inferno but with the spectacle out of focus or just out of frame. This cinematic device forces the viewer to fill in the detail whether they want to or not. When it comes to Holocaust atrocities, the unseeable is more terrifying.

The story of Saul is painfully simple: he is a Hungarian Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz, one of a group of wardens who herd other prisoners to the chambers then remove their incinerated remains. In return, they receive extra food, a few more weeks of life, and unimaginable shame. Against the out- of-focus images of furnaces and corpses Saul finds a boy who briefly survives gassing and he becomes obsessed with finding a Rabbi to perform a dignified burial for the body he calls son. But Saul never had a son and his quixotic quest is both an act of madness and a tragic morality play. Against a frenzied, claustrophobic background of horrific screams, gunshots, smoke and body parts, whispers of a planned escape by other prisoners serve only to signal that even in this hell human beings retained hope of survival no matter how futile. In no other film have I experienced such raw visceral power of sound and silence, orchestrated with such brutal force to numb the senses and leave you drained.

In terms of cinematography, storytelling and emotional impact, this film is a modern masterpiece. But it is hardly entertainment. It leaves you nowhere to hide, shows no mercy, spares no detail. It uses the camera with extraordinary surgical precision, lingering on pained faces, shifting to a wafer-thin depth of field to isolate Saul from hell, then darting frenetically from face to face in search of humanity. Only one smile appears in all of this film and it rapidly vanishes as the delusion of a madman. Why see such a film? Answers will vary of course. For some, it is about respect for filmmaking at the highest level. For others, it is about the imperative of not forgetting humanity's potential for evil. One thing is certain: the shelf life of this film will be measured in decades.

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3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Concentration camp prisoner attempts to arrange Jewish burial for dead boy.

Author: maurice yacowar from Canada
2 January 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Laszlo Nemes' Son of Saul is one of the most powerful Holocaust films ever made. He avoids the tendency of cheapening the Holocaust by making it a background for an amenable story, like Life is Beautiful and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Instead he presents the Holocaust as the foreground and threads two thin plot lines into it.

The film is a very difficult experience because it plunges us into an inferno. Where the German extermination machine is usually depicted as machine-like in its efficiency, here the concentration camp is all noise and fire and chaos. It's late in the Reich's life, the war is ending and the Nazis are trying to kill as many as quickly as possible. They reopen the pits and overtax the gas chambers.

Amid the infernal chaos the film presents two quixotic attempts at rebellion. In the collective effort, a group of inmates conspire to try to blow up the camp and escape. They manage a disruption and a handful of Jews run into the forest and find refuge in a barn. But the Nazis track down and destroy them. This is based on an actual event in Auschwitz (unnamed in the film) in 1944.

In the personal and fictional revolt, one Sonderkommando, Saul, tries to give a murdered boy a proper Jewish burial. The boy survived a mass gassing. Then Saul watches him killed, then resolves upon the symbolic gesture of a Jewish ceremony amidst the Nazi chaos. He tells some the boy is his son, but he makes no paternal response to him. It's a strictly symbolic gesture, a reaffirmation of Jewish faith and Jewish service to spite the Nazi operation.

As a Sonderkommando Saul is in a compromised position. To eke out a few months of extended life he performs the Nazis' horrible assignments, herding Jews to their death and plundering their possessions for the Reich. Gaza Rohrig"s cleft nose is an emblem of the man divided within himself. So his romantic campaign is important for his conscience.

His search for a cooperative rabbi proves futile. Some refuse to officiate, whether out of lost faith or to survive. One actually escapes Saul's importuning by running into the lake to drown. Saul hauls him out, but the Nazis shoot the rabbi anyway. When Saul finally finds a collaborator he's not a rabbi after all; he can't say Kaddish.

That prayer becomes an emblem of the overturned order of things. Kaddish is the young man's prayer for the dead parent. Here it becomes a compromised Jew's attempt to salve his conscience and serve his God and his faith with a symbolic subversion of the Nazis. In this vision of Hell one man tries to do the right thing — but is thwarted. The attempt is its own reward.

If Saul failed with his dead boy, the film ends with another boy saved and liberated. A clearly Aryan lad comes upon our escapees in the barn. In Saul's smile at the boy we read a wider acceptance and feeling of success. But will the Jews kill him to prevent his betraying them? The Nazi troops come, silence the boy, kill the Jews, but let the boy run free into the wilds. Dead or alive, the young are our hope for survival, for honour, for amendment of the horrors we leave behind. By not ratting out the Jews the blond boy strikes a note of hope.

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4 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

A Personal Point of View

Author: politic1983 from United Kingdom
11 October 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Now, I'm no expert on Hungarian cinema, or cinema from any nation to that matter, but the Hungarian cinema I've seen tends to focus more on the darker side of life, be it black comedy or World War II drama. With 'Son of Saul, László Nemes' debut feature, we see an intense drama set in a concentration camp in Auschwitz.

Saul is a Hungarian Sonderkommando in a camp, tasked with cleaning up the dead from the gas chambers. When a young boy is found choking when performing their duties, Saul witnesses German soldiers suffocate him. Saul then makes it his mission to give the boy a decent burial, hiding the boy's body while he seeks a rabbi, against the will of his fellow Sonderkommandos, whom plot their escape.

'Son of Saul', therefore is very much a film about an individual, as one man fights against an oppressive regime and his fellow prisoners, in an attempt to feel human again. With this the case, director Nemes chose to film almost from first person perspective, with the camera trained over Saul's shoulder or on his face throughout. Long takes with this cinematography create a very intense and personal experience, as the viewer experiences every step of Saul's journey.

In what is a difficult subject matter to tackle, Nemes uses a unique approach to create a very personal film, that the viewer feels every step of the way. It is a film that is cramped, uncomfortable and furious, dynamic and inventive in its approach in what is very good filmmaking from a debuting director.

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