“Son of Saul” Review ✦✦✦✦✧

7 April, 2016

Director: László Nemes
Screenwriters: László Nemes, Clara Royer
Director of Photography: Mátyás Erdély
Cast: Géza Röhrig, Levente Molnár

Synopsis: A Jewish man detained in Auschwitz during WWII is assigned the role of Sonderkommando which forces him to assist in burning the bodies of fellow prisoners. After he finds the corpse of his own son, the man spends his remaining days seeking out a rabbi who can help in giving his boy an appropriate burial.

Son of Saul Review:

If you were to write down every hyperbolic visual cue inserted into “Son of Saul” with lazy intentions you’d end up with nothing more than a blank piece of paper. This is a war drama that quite admirably throws a vacant expression in the direction of genocide, a movie that crafts one of the most convincing depictions of what it was actually like to live through the Holocaust that you could ever expect to see on film.

“Son of Saul” is outstandingly bleak in its execution, rejecting a musical score and replacing it with a cacophonous sound bubble that pulls you into the concentration camp like it’s virtual reality. Sonderkommandos whisper in the darkness, nude corpses are dragged along concrete, doors creak, and metal clangs. It’s a film that forces you into Saul’s confined line of view, presenting close-ups that are both frustrating and nauseating but always crucial to the overall effect.

It’s not until you start reading true accounts from the period that you can begin to get a sense of what it was like to actually live through pure terror. László Nemes translates these eyewitness testimonies, moulding them into sounds and images, putting you within such close proximity to his protagonist that you feel like you’re brushing past his face in a crowd. Saul’s disconnect become relatable as he avoids human interaction, focusing instead on the specific task in hand rather than the carnage in his periphery.

For a Sonderkommando working to stay alive, naked bloodied bodies become nothing more than butchered meat as a man goes about his business like a cattle herder no longer able to comprehend the horrors of his reality. While Saul escorts people to the gas chambers and slings their lifeless corpses into fires there’s a world of chaos in the background that Nemes refuses to show, always aware of Saul’s inability to look at the bigger picture without losing his mind.

Removed from the constant perpetuation of shame that still infests the WWII sub-genre, “Son of Saul” turns a blind eye towards sloppy emotional devices, making it more profound than the average Holocaust movie as it forces viewers to accept that such an event is practically inconceivable when conveyed through everyday structures of understanding. As an art piece designed to open up your mind rather than your tear ducts, “Son of Saul” exists to be admired, not only for what it represents, but for how it represents it.


Review Date
Son of Saul