Son Of Saul (2016) Review
A Jewish-Hungarian concentration camp prisoner sets out to give a child he mistook for his son a proper burial.
I am always happy when a movie teaches me something and isn’t just an enjoyable watch. Son of Saul the 2016 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film of the year taught me about Sonderkommando a group of prisoners that work for the Nazis and then when their work is complete are killed off. Ruthless. This Hungarian movie did a great deal of showing how the Sonderkommando were really used and got the very little reward and was an eye-opener from the usual stories of the war that I am used to seeing on the screen.
The camera work of this movie is filmed ridiculously tight and feels very claustrophobic and really focuses in on Saul and how the movie is really about him. One of my favourite shots is when he is listening in to a conversation and we get an over the shoulder shot with the shallow focus on Saul’s ear as he was trying to listen in. What made this shot more powerful was that the dialogue didn’t have subtitles some as an audience member didn’t have a clue what Saul was trying to listen to and really put me in his shoes and this is great direction from the debutant Lazlo Nemes.
The opening scene was really good. Following straight from Saul’s perspective on his daily job and what he does. It took me a while to figure out where he was going as there is no dialogue. But that is what makes the opening so intriguing. You are following along with a character that looks so emotionless and you don’t really know why. But then you find out. It is actually horrible to watch and to see workers in Auschwitz and you do have to feel sorry for them. Then you don’t see it but you hear the screams from a chamber that I think is so much more powerful than actually seeing it and it is horrible to hear.
At multiple times in the movie Sauls character isn’t referred to as Saul but ‘Auslander’ by the Nazis which in German translates to 'foreigner'. This surely has to be intentional to strip Saul of his humanity even further and if so, it's brilliantly done.
The performance of Hungarian actor Geza Rohrig as Saul was quite minimal. The fact that he doesn’t have much dialogue and when he does is almost a whisper fits in within the world. The almost emotionless portrayal reminds me of the Kuleshov effect and reveals so much about the constraints of Saul.
This movie explores the role that Saul has and there is this great battle between his internal struggle of wanting to bury his child and his part in a revolution against the Nazi camp. It is a great battle to watch and I highly recommend you check it out. It is a slow burner and not your conventional movie so will take some attention to sit and watch it but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Overall, I rate this movie a solid 4.5/5.