Film Review: Son of Saul
“You Have Forsaken The Living For The Dead…”
If anything, Son of Saul is one of those sad indicators of modern cinema. Sure, anyone can go and watch the latest blockbuster, the latest superhero movie, the latest sequel, prequel or remake, yet when it comes to independent, foreign hidden gems, regardless of critical praise across the globe, such films are particularly hard to find, unless, like me, you are one of those crazy cinephiles who would traverse the plains of England to try and find them. In the case of Son of Saul therefore, never before have I seen a film so visceral and utterly heartbreaking, a film that encourages you to witness the appalling acts of the Holocaust without exploiting them to a winding degree and ultimately, a film which indeed has a sense of independence and singularity, a film which rewards you fully in your attempts to seek it out, even if at times, events on-screen may indeed be too much for some to handle yet not through a sense of exploitative means, but rather through a sense of Son of Saul being perhaps the most accurate and horrific tale of recent histories’ most awful tragedy to have graced our screens since well, forever.
Following a day in the life of Hungarian-Jewish prisoner Saul, played in sheer majestic fashion by Géza Röhrig in his first on-screen role, Son of Saul attempts to show us the true horror of the events at Auschwitz with Saul’s role as a member of the Sonderkommando being fully embraced and materialised in a cinematic fashion that combines the stark horror of reality without attempting to dislodge and alienate the viewer by means of certain overkill and bad taste. This success is primarily captured by means of the film’s cinematography with the film’s choice of having an incredibly shallow depth of field and the camera being a constant companion of our titular hero both giving the impression of ambiguity regarding certain events that occur on-screen, suggesting Saul’s own blurred mentality, one that accepts events that are going on around him yet decides to not fully embrace them, whilst also showing enough to capture the essence of sheer madness that encapsulated the events that took place. The film is not one that attempts to dramatise, it simply portrays the horror of reality and the wrongfulness of the past, something of which reminded me of films like Apocalypse Now, with madness being at the root of the evil presented throughout.
As a piece of cinema which acts as a debut for both director László Nemes and actor Géza Röhrig, Son of Saul is a remarkable achievement, one which rightly deserved the Academy Award for Best Foreign Picture and one that should not be forgotten any-time soon. Writing this review after watching the film more than a week ago, the thought of the movie leaves me with a rather weird feeling of this indeed being a film incredibly important and innovative whilst also being a incredibly hard film to sell to the majority. Son of Saul is a particularly hard watch, one that will ultimately leave the viewer with a down-hearted sense of either hatred or sadness, or perhaps both, yet the fact that such a film can lead to such emotions only enhances the many strengths throughout the course of the film. Yes indeed, it is a hard watch and that alone may distract the lay cinema goer, yet for cinematic purposes and from my personal point of view, Son of Saul is perhaps the greatest tale of the tragedy of World War II, one that will not be forgotten by all that attempt to seek it out and one that inevitably will be one of the best of the year so far.
Overall Score: 9/10
Posted on 11/05/2016, in Uncategorized and tagged Cannes 2015, drama, Film 2016, Film Review, Foreign Language, Géza Röhrig, Holocaust, Hungarian, László Nemes, Levente Molnár, Mozinet, Son of Saul, Urs Rechn, World War 2. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.