It is difficult to like Son of Saul. But, once you’ve seen it, you can’t forget it. Maybe I should say “if you see it”. The main character is Saul Ausländer (Géza Röhrig), a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and a member of the Sonderkommando, a group of prisoners forced to aid the Nazis with the disposal of gas chamber victims. Almost the entire film is a series close up on Saul. The camera rigorously follows him as he drags naked dead bodies, wash the floors or shovels coals. Saul is in the foreground, his surroundings are in the background are out of focus. To hear the muffled screams and cries coming from the gas chamber is unbearable. This is what death sounds like. One day, Saul finds the body of a boy. The boy is still breathing and he’s brought to the infirmary, and Saul watch as the Nazis doctor kills the boy. Saul becomes obsessed with giving the boy a proper Jewish burial. He has to find a rabbi. To those who asks why, he claims the boy is his son. The other Sonderkommandos are busy planning a revolt against the Nazis and don’t care to help him. Son of Saul is actor Géza Röhrig’s first film in 15 years. He is practically in every shot, with very little dialogue. You could say this is a cinematic monologue, but what impresses us more is the difficult physical and emotional performance. This is a first feature film from Hungarian László Nemes and so early in his career he has made such a powerful and unique film. Son of Saul is a stunning, gutsy, hard and desperate film. Not for everyone and difficult to like, yes. But I think Son of Saul is a must see film.
And the Oscar went to… László Nemes received the Oscar for Best foreign language film. He thanked actor Géza Röhrig for his amazing performance.
Son of Saul (Saul fia)
In Hungarian with English subtitles.