Son of Saul
RATED - (R) -107-MIN-2015
This film will break your heart.
It is hard to review a film like (Son of Saul) because it is so painful to watch, but too important to ignore. As time goes by, human tragedies get cloudy for the average person; especially for those who were not affected. It is then important, for the witnesses to these events, and for in this case, the cinema, to remind us of what has transpired. It is this reason, films like (Son of Saul) should be viewed. The horror of what happened is not a vague notion or idea for them; it is their history. This madness occurred and you should not forget it.
This movie broke my heart watching it. Not because it was brilliantly done; It is, but because it so puts you in the mindset of the damned (Sonderkommando) who were forced into the most unholy acts of cruelty I can imagine a human being would be asked of doing: lead your fellow Jews and human beings to their certain death in Auschwitz, all the while knowing that you will die soon. If you are a parent, this film will crush you, as it did me.
Your reward?... a few months more of life.
What is unique about the film, is the perspective the writer and director: (László Nemes) puts us in, as we follow our main character: Saul (Géza Röhrig) a stone-faced member of said (Sonderkommando) as he goes about the horrors of his job in late war Auschwitz. Filmed in the Academy standard ratio of 4:3, we are a silent member of this group, by Saul's side as the movie progresses. The (Sonderkommando) are responsible for leading their fellow Jews to certain death, as they get off trains in Auschwitz, have their clothing removed and then lied to about getting tea after they take a shower. We know what happens, as we closely follow Saul, as he performs his horrible task.(Röhrig's) face tells so much in what he hides and then shows in small glimpses. I can think of few performances that affected me more than watching this hollowed out man perform this brutal role.
After another group is gassed, the (Sonderkommando) have the gruesome task of gathering up the bodies to take them to be cremated. They do this all day and night. Apparently, as the Nazis realized they would lose soon, they only elevated their disgusting acts of killing everything they could in sight. A cough is heard in the bodies and it is discovered that a young boy has survived the extermination. Saul seems to take a great interest in this. There is a glint of humanity and care in his eye. When a doctor is called in to examine the boy, he says that this has happened only a couple of times. They must autopsy him after he is dead. Then, the doctor suffocates the boy.
This is the part of the film that is open for interpretation, as Saul now says that this is his son, maybe from an improper relationship, and he must find a Rabbi to give him the suitable Jewish burial. This is the string of goodness, that this damned man will hang on to ,in the utter madness of the place he is in.
(Son of Saul) was highly praised when it came out and deservedly won The Academy Award for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars, but this is a very hard watch. While acknowledging other movies about the Holocaust like the great: (Schindler's List), (Neme's) film offers no ray of light, as he wants us to see the hopeless despair, no matter how uncomfortable you may find it. I give him credit, as much of the atrocities are blurred, maybe his interpretation of how Saul sees it, to go on doing what he must.
My guess is, once again, if you have children, this film might make a little more sense as far as Saul's motivation for doing one good thing in this hell. But there is no question regardless, what a true stain on humanity this tragic moment in history is, and that we should never forget it. This important and tragic film portrays this with dignity and restraint, when it didn't have to.
watch the trailer: