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Son of Saul More at IMDbPro »Saul fia (original title)

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5 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Welcome to Auschwitz

Author: Lucas Versantvoort from Netherlands
18 November 2015

*** 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.

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8 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Some humanity did exist in 1944 Auschwitz, but definitely not from the Nazis

Author: Muneeb Arshid (The Film Lawyers)
10 October 2015

*** 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 time.

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

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10 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

This is not a holocaust movie. This movie is about eternal human problems and conflicts.

Author: balazsbalog from Budapest
25 June 2015

*** 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.

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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Brings Home the Waking Nightmare That Was Life in a Concentration Camp

Author: evanston_dad from United States
17 May 2016

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 anything different.

"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.

Grade: A

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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Experiencing what Saul's seeing, hearing and undertaking.

Author: Reno Rangan from Somewhere in the Cosmos
4 May 2016

The World War II is the largest source supplier for the war movies. I have seen numerous breathtaking braverism, as well as heartbreakingly suffering film characters which are based on the real and sometimes fiction. The genre too differs, from action, adventure, war to the comedy, romance, drama et cetera. Since the Academy Awards nominee announcement in the January I had an eye on this, but now it had won the Oscars that draw my interest even more on this. Anyway, finally saw this, so let me tell you what I feel about it.

It is no ones biopic, but inspired by a collection of testimonies of those who had made out alive from the Auschwitz. Like some of the WWII films, it is very unique, that focused on a particular event and a person. Saul is one of the prisoners in the Nazi held concentration camp who is a slave-labour. His job is to clean the place after prisoners were executed. One day he finds a young boy who was executed and soon he takes the responsibility to give him a proper burial. Risking his own life and others, he begins to find a rabbi to perform the last rites. So what happens later and how it ends is the remaining film.

It is not only enthralling story, but was very clever and unique filmmaking. In this whole film you will see one face at all the time in different angles and mostly they're close shots. Yes, Saul is everywhere, the camera never takes off its lens out of him. We would experience what he sees, listening and undertaking, more like in the real time. Just like a computer game where everything is from our (player's) angle, but here it is us again barely through the Saul's perspective. (Something like the upcoming Hollywood film 'Hardcore Henry' trailer I saw.)

Although, the movies are not the games, like I felt weird during watching 'Need for Speed', when Aaron Paul was at my place. And a movie always needs a character that can take us to the journey through the time and space where it sets, otherwise it will be called a documentary film. The aspect ratio was like the older day films which is narrow that takes time for us to get used to it, yet it is a colour film. More like the entire story is taking place within the 48 hours. Interesting pace and developments, and a decent conclusion. I think it deserved all the praise and prizes given to it.

"You have forsaken the living for the dead."

I know the seriousness of the film and its contents, but I could not avoid the laugh at the end scene. I did not want to, but I did it without my self-awareness after seeing the Saul's face. I hope, there are others too, like me in that situation. Yet the storyline was very strong, like how far would a man can go knowing the life is meaningless after what he's going through. That makes him to take a solo mission when others are struggling and working together for their freedom.

Since I don't know any language that spoken in the movie, I had no problem too to follow the movie. The 1944 settings were so realistic, I think everyone's hard-work was this film's result. All the performances were excellent, especially who played the Saul's role. That is the face no one is going to forget who had watched this film. However the real hero of the film was not the actors or the writers and the director, but the cameraman. Like I said earlier, he had done a brilliant job. If anyone wants to praise this film, he/she must begin with him. The cinematography award at the Oscars might have went to 'The Revenant', but the cameraman award is none other than this guy who shot this film.

I really liked this film, but not overly sympathised or enjoyed. Usually if any movie that's based on the real gets my favour, even the movie has been low quality with more than ignorable flaws. Because telling the truth to the world is what I consider is foremost important than trying to get benefit out of it. But when it's not factual, I expect whatever the cinematical options can make it a better product.

This film comes between them both, but leans mostly on the truth about the World War II prison camp. An insight of what the prisoners have went through. Painful to watch a movie like this, at a time I appreciate the filmmakers for giving this film and let the younger generation know a tiny dot of the incident of the WWII. To watch this film, no one needs a reason. It is automatically a must see, but after watching it, whether you liked it or not is an individual opinion.


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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

One of the best from Holocaust movies

Author: sharondsouza-79536
13 April 2016

This movie though set in the backdrop of WWII at the Auschwitz concentration camp, is just not a war movie. It highlights the human emotions, in the backdrop of extreme adversity. Right from the first frame, you have Saul Auslander's (Géza Röhrig) face which takes you along the movie. There's so much going on with him, that the rebellious uprising around in the camp makes no difference to him. Humiliation, guilt, dealing with death everyday & also being an unwilling participant in these deaths has been empathetically portrayed. The movie doesn't have a dull moment even once with the last scene being just way too perfect for me!

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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

mesmerizing, deserves a spot in film history

Author: TheDanger from Brazil
10 April 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

i believe this is the best portrayal of the holocaust on film. not as stylized or sentimental as schindler's list and not as limited as the pianist. obviously not as real as night and fog, but it certainly looks real

we're 80% of the time behind saul's shoulders, which makes for an extremely immersive and claustrophobic experience. all the torment and suffering is seen through his passive eyes, passive, of course, only when it not comes to his dead son.

also the lens are always very closed, the director don't want to show things, he reveals the terror gradually, without being over the top, nor sensationalistic, nor over-sentimental. he and the cinematographer followed some rules in the film, but they broke it sometimes so it would have some flow and wouldn't be a 100 minutes piece of someone's ego. he lets saul speak through very subtle acting, and the horrors that he's facing are always there, but not really, because we don't have to see it, we know it's there mostly due to fantastic directing

some scenes reminded me of 1985's come and see, especially the chaotic scenes. it's a raw experience, but you can see that a lot of work was put into it to make it look so raw

the movie is so real that the somewhat ambiguous ending left me wondering if it really worked, i think it departed a bit from the initial proposal of the film

overall it's a must see, it's one of those movies that you experience instead of just watch

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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Defies expectations in a very good way

Author: csigafattyu from Budapest, Hungary
8 April 2016

This film is very special for the Hungarian audience, and for a good reason. Not very recently we had a liberal government with palpable Israeli influence on local politics. (Most notably, Israeli soldiers dressed as Hungarian cops and firing rubber bullets at peaceful people on the streets on 23 October 2006, on the 50th anniversary of the 1956 revolution.) This government and their Israeli friends did everything to push the Holocaust down the throat of Hungarians and force them to admit their responsibility for it. Hungarians didn't take it well. All they achieved was to convince an entire generation that the Holocaust is a propaganda tool in Israeli politics and the leftist agenda. This movie was not received with too much awe in Hungary. It is viewed as another propaganda piece about a falsely represented historic event. I can't remember any of my friends ever watching it, but I also can't name anyone who hasn't despised it without seeing.

They are wrong. This movie is good. Even if it's just a work of fantasy. It is largely based on the memoirs of Miklós Nyiszli, a Jewish doctor who claimed to have worked for Dr. Joseph Mengele in Auschwitz. His account was the first ever published about the death camp in the 1940s-- and the first to be debunked by historians. Nowadays it's widely accepted to be plain forgery. Nevertheless Holocaust propagandists keep reprinting his story as "authentic".

But this won't make it a bad movie. We all love Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and many more which we also know are not true. Still we feel for its characters and genuinely feel for them. There are many WW2 movies which take place in a historic environment, in battles fought in reality but with fictional characters. Why hate a work of fantasy which takes place in a fictional death camp?

And for that, it's brilliantly made. It truly deserved an Oscar. The novel and unique approach to the protagonist's perspective is unlike I've ever seen. It plays brilliantly with light, sound and emotions. We know it didn't happen this way. Saul Auslander did not exist, his story is not more true than Bambi. Still, death camps did exist. Not this, and not this way, but something very similar did. What if Saul was a German POW in a Siberian death camp? Or if he was a Chinese in a Japanese camp? Or a prisoner today in North Korea's camps?

Definitely not a piece of propaganda. A nicely made movie about humanity. Or well, not so "nicely" - the entire movie is deliberately bleak and unpleasant. I loved it.

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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Absolutely Worthy Of All Its Accolades, Son of Saul Is Essential Viewing.

Author: CinemaClown from India
6 April 2016

The latest recipient of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Son of Saul (also known as Saul fia) is an exceptionally powerful, relentlessly grim & downright disturbing cinema that takes a leaflet out of mankind's darkest phase and weaves an original, absorbing & deeply affecting story around it, all depicted in a manner that only magnifies the haunting horrors of the Holocaust.

The story of Son of Saul takes place inside the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II and covers a day or two in the life of a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner who, along with a selected few, is tasked with the disposal of the corpses of gas chamber victims. The plot follows his dangerous & desperate attempt to provide a proper Jewish burial to the body of a young boy he takes for his son.

Co-written & directed by László Nemes, Son of Saul marks his feature film debut and it is by every means a sensational start to his directional career. The film is disquieting from the very first scene that takes us through Saul's daily duty in the camp and it is through his eyes that we get a glimpse of genocide in fully-operational mode. And all of it is shown from such an extreme close-up that it is bound to discomfort many.

The deftly written screenplay is worthy of mention as well for it keeps a stringent focus on what's going on with the protagonist amidst all the horror, chaos & despair and never for once leaves his side. The decision to illustrate the brutal life of Sonderkommando is commendable too for they've been a subject of controversy throughout history as many consider them to be collaborators who assisted the Nazi in exterminating their own race.

Son of Saul shows that Sonderkommando were no less victims than other prisoners in the camp for they had no control of their destinies, were inducted into the unit regardless of their choice & were forced to act under the threat of death. Their slightly improved living conditions compared to other prisoners only existed because they were needed by Germans to keep their death factories running and while it was a cruel situation for them to be in, it did help them survive longer than the others.

Cinematography is a definite highlight for the camera stays alongside Saul throughout his ordeal & serves as his companion at all times. It also employs shallow focus to blur the genocidal massacre taking place in the background and the unusual aspect ratio it opts for further helps in realising its narrow field of vision. Many segments are shot in single, unbroken takes plus the very atmosphere of despair & gruesome horror is effectively maintained over the course of its 107 minutes runtime.

Sound design is another impressive element that, through the expertly assembled screams, cries & pleadings, gives the viewers a perception of what's happening around Saul at any given time, thus allowing them to imagine the horrible imagery on their own. And just like the stellar camera-work, it stays within the main character's field of vision & hearing. Editing is brilliantly carried out for there isn't even one inessential sequence present in the final print and all events unfold at a steady pace.

Coming to the performances, Géza Röhrig carries the entire picture on his shoulders and delivers a very strong, finely layered & emotionally resonant rendition of his character. For the most part, it's a silent showcase from Röhrig as the camera relies only on his body language to express what he's going through and he truly nails that part. Rest of the supporting cast also chip in with outstanding inputs but the film's real payoff is in witnessing a man's efforts to carry out a humane deed amidst reckless evil.

On an overall scale, Son of Saul is a profoundly upsetting, absolutely devastating & emotionally scarring cinema that captures the implementation of Nazi's "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" from an unsettling close-range, provides an authentic sense of what it's like to be in a living hell, and works as both a thrilling drama & an informative historical piece that retains all the harrowing reality of the Holocaust without abandoning its own story. Absolutely worthy of all its accolades, inarguably the best film of 2015, and a must-watch for all, this Hungarian masterpiece is essential viewing in every sense of the word & comes very highly recommended.

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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

World War II flicks are always good Oscar bait; at least this one offers something fresh!

Author: Hellmant from United States
11 March 2016

'SON OF SAUL': Four Stars (Out of Five)

This year's Oscar winning Best Foreign Language film, is this World War II drama flick. It's about a concentration camp prisoner, who's forced to burn the bodies of his own people, that goes on an obsessive mission to give a deceased boy a proper burial. The movie was directed by first time feature filmmaker Laszlo Nemes; and it was written by Nemes and Clara Royer. The film stars Geza Rohrig; a New York City-based Hungarian poet (that hadn't acted since the 1980s!). It's received mostly rave reviews from critics, and I mostly agree with them.

The story takes place in a 1944 Auschwitz concentration camp. Saul Auslander (Rohrig) is a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner there, that's forced to help cremate fellow Jews. One day he notices that a young boy is still breathing; after being gassed in a Nazi gas chamber. The boy is killed, by a prison doctor, and an autopsy is ordered. Saul makes it his mission to rescue the corpse; and give it a proper burial. He spends the next day-and-a-half trying to locate a rabbi to help him.

The movie is oddly filmed in the 'found footage' format; which isn't possible (given the time period it's set in) but it's still an interesting directing tool. It makes the film seem more claustrophobic, but it also makes it seem much slower-paced (which can be very frustrating at times). Overall I found the movie to be very creative, interesting and horrific; and (like other films of it's type) it seems just as much like a horror movie as a drama. World War II flicks are always good Oscar bait; at least this one offers something fresh, and original, as well.

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