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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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Is there something above staying alive or run away if you are in
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.
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
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.
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.
*** 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.
*** 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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Another year, another Holocaust drama...but what a Holocaust drama it
is! This film takes all narrative and cinematographic clichés one
usually finds in films of this sort and dumps them straight into the
trash. When you think about it, it's quite surprising that a subjective
trip through Holocaust hell of this kind has taken so long to be made.
The story can be summed up rather quickly: Saul, a Sonderkommando (Jews who were forced to help the Nazi's in the concentration camps), tries to bury his son while his fellow Sonderkommando's are planning an escape. The opening scenes already set the tone as we see Saul being forced to help the Nazi's get the new batch of Jews undressed and into the gas chambers. As the ruckus what's happening behind the 'shower' doors gets louder and louder, the film cuts to a black screen with the film's title. Immediately, this film surpasses Schindler's List with its cop-out of a gas chamber scene. List, while a great piece of cinema in many ways, is in the end a story about a white man growing a conscience. Shoah, it is not. I imagine Spielberg wanted to recreate the Holocaust with a morally decent central narrative to not completely alienate his audience. Son of Saul has a similarly morally decent storyline (Saul trying to properly bury his son), but unlike List puts you smack-dab in the middle of Auschwitz for the duration of the film.
The true genius lies in the complete lack of cinematic manipulation. True, film is by its very nature a manipulative medium, but director Nemes presents this most horrific of horrors as authentically as possible. Ninety percent of the film consists of long shots where the camera sticks to Saul as if magnetically drawn to him, while the horrors taking place in the background tend to be out of focus. If Saul isn't looking at it, it's out of focus. The result is a highly subjective journey through Auschwitz. Nemes is also aware of what he can and cannot show: he doesn't pull any punches, but he also doesn't take us into the gas chambers, because he knows it there are some things that must not be seen. There are no typical cinematic tricks here: no establishing shots, no 'artsy' camera angles or filters, no music. It's a refreshing change of pace from how the Holocaust is usually presented.
The sound is also crucial to the film's impact. Since much of what we see in the background is out of focus, it's the sound that has to convey the hellhole we find ourselves in. Combined with the long shots, you rapidly become exhausted, so when a quiet scene suddenly appears, it's almost shocking.
In terms of acting, I was surprised how minimalist it was. One would expect there'd be all kinds of Big Emotions on display given the characters' circumstances, but it's precisely these circumstances that feed Géza Röhrig's (Saul) performance. Saul has a one-track mind and trying to survive in Auschwitz would lead you to shut everything out, to block out all emotions. Fully expressing yourself would lead to certain death, so Saul internalizes everything, so to speak. It's a very bold move from Nemes who could've easily included lots of Oscar-bait scenes, but didn't.
Even Claude Lanzmann, creator of the gargantuan Shoah documentary, who stated that depicting the Shoah is beyond film's capabilities has spoken of his great admiration for Son of Saul. I suppose that's the highest praise one can give to a Holocaust drama: Lanzmann liked it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Saul fia (or Son of Saul) is a Hungarian film set in 1944 Auschwitz,
about Saul Auslander (Géza Röhrig) who sets upon a personal journey to
bury a child, who may or may not be his, instead of exposing that child
to the norms of the genocidal extermination that was occurring at that
Saul fia was the 2015 Grand Prix award winner at the Cannes Film Festival and right away shows us the quality that earned the film it's award. The film is beautifully shot in the standard Academy 4:3 on 35 mm which gives it a very boxed in and very oddly personal feeling to the film, the characters, and the setting.
Upon initially seeing the child, Saul is on this mission to bury this child with dignity regardless of the danger that he is exposing himself to. Alongside this, is a side plot of the rest of his Sonderkommando (working clan) who are trying to hatch an escape plan to leave Auschwitz and it's horrors.
What is important is that the movie strives not to indulge in the horrors of what is going on in the background but instead focuses on Saul and his story. But that doesn't mean that the director forgets about its surroundings. The DP has taken glancing shots that when something catches Saul's eyes (as this film has a lot of over the shoulder 3rd person POV), the film draws focus on the plight of the Jewish people that are being exterminated in the soulless methods that the Sonderkommando are being forced to use by the Nazi's.
But the film is able to balance the way the plot runs between the escape plan with the burial plot by meshing the two plots together in a way where neither plot feels forced. That's entirely due to how Röhrig plays the role of Saul, because he is forced to make deals with members of the Sonderkommando and thus needs to help with the escape plan, but he always reverts his way back to his own storyline.
Saul fia is a movie that is sure to resonate with any person who watches it, and will make you think about the struggles and horrors that the Jewish people had to go through during WWII at Auschwitz. As well as showing how the captive Jewish workers at Auschwitz were forced to do these jobs and being absolutely helpless to the people that they had to "exterminate". Saul fia gets a near-perfect A
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The first 15 minutes was very though and unbelievably shocking. The 'in
medias res' beginning warns you that your life can change in a moment,
in one moment someone says you that they need you and you will get a
cup of tea, just take a shower, then everything will be fine, and in
the very next moment you are dead. And all the people around you. This
is the first important message of the movie for me: nothing - good or
bad - is eternal. Anything can disappear in a moment. Even your life or
everything you believed in.
The cinematography is classic and brand new at once. The 4:3 ratio and the concept of concentrating on the faces and the human beings, not on the grand total of the death camp in the background is just another tool of putting the movie away from holocaust and the death camps, and you can imagine that this story can happen in any other cruel situations and at any time.
For me it was unclear whether it was son of Saul or not. I suppose not. I suppose it was another psychological effect of the circumstances: finding a purpose when you realize that your life does not count anymore: picking a boy, telling yourself that it is your son, and you have duties about him.
It is also a movie about the difficulty of choosing between the purposes of an individual and the group. What has more importance? Your last individual goals when you feel that everything (even your life) is lost or trying to help the group saving the situation? Another question: was this a real choice? Did it make any sense? Are you supposed to choose? Are you supposed to help the group? Are you supposed to give yourself up for the aims of the group? (These are very 21st century questions, which also puts the movie away from the holocaust topic.)
This is not a holocaust movie. This is a movie about being a human being within inhuman circumstances and finding a final goal in life when you realize that your life cannot last for more than a few days. It is a masterpiece.
I don't like to tell about any movie or books that this a "must to be seen" or "must to be read", because if you make something obligatory, it may not have the supposed effect. But this movie is an exception. This movie is a must for everyone. All over the world.
The sheer and utter depression of the Holocaust was not fully brought
home to me until I read William Styron's "Sophie's Choice." Up to then,
I had recognized the horror of it, the disbelief that humanity could
sink to such depraved levels, the anger and sorrow inspired by stories
of the victims. But more than anything while reading Styron's book, I
was struck by how demoralizing the Holocaust was. It just may be the
most singularly depressing event in human history, and what brought it
home in that particular book is that Styron elaborated on the
mechanization of it. These mass murders weren't being carried out in
moments of anger, they weren't personal, they weren't the sick fantasy
of one insane person's fevered brain. They were industrialized to the
point that the humans being cycled through the camps were no different
than cattle, and the people working the camps didn't think of them as
"Son of Saul" is the first film about the Holocaust I've seen that captures that same sense of hopeless depression I found in Styron's book. The camera sticks close to the film's protagonist, Saul, as he wanders through the waking nightmare that is life inside the prison camps, numb to the human carnage that takes place around him as he persists in his singular obsession with finding a rabbi to bless the dead young boy he has convinced himself is his son and give him a proper burial. The futility of Saul's task asks the audience to consider: Is it a noble gesture of humanity to be respected, one small attempt to retain a grip on humanity in the absence of anything resembling it; or is it a selfish, self-centered obsession with the impractical when Saul could have been providing real assistance to the living who needed it? The film doesn't make judgements, and I certainly found as a viewer that I couldn't either. How on earth could anyone who hasn't himself lived through the same thing even begin to think he would know how he would act in a similar situation? Unlike the most high profile and famous films about the Holocaust ("Schindler's List," "The Pianist"), "Son of Saul" doesn't even attempt to find a strain of hope or redemption in this story. It acknowledges what other artists who have tackled the Holocaust can't seem to bring themselves to admit, which is that there isn't even the slightest fragment of a happy ending to be found in an unspeakable moment of human history. I know why other artists can't acknowledge this -- it makes the senseless pain and human waste even that much more unbearable to contemplate. But it feels much more honest than those other films.
This is a tough but excellent movie.
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