Thursday, October 1, 2015


Son of Saul (2015) - Nemes
Son of Saul
I understand Godard's criticism of Schindler's List now. No holocaust movie should be a thriller. It shouldn't give you a thrill in expecting if someone is going to live or die. Hungarian first timer Laszlo Nemes's Auschwitz set drama is at once riveting and quietly devastating experience and it doesn't feel like a gimmick.

From the get-go, the fast moving film quickly sets up that the film belongs to only one man by shallow focusing on and following around Saul, a Hungarian sonderkommando - a worker chosen to be working in a crematorium, from handling the new arrivals to their deaths to gas chamber cleaning duties, to shoveling ashes into the river. Most of atrocities around him are out of focus but it's the effective sound design that does the job. Everything changes when he finds a boy survivor in a pile of bodies. Doctors are called in and a German doctor quickly suffocates the boy to death. Since he is an abnormality, they want to perform autopsy. Saul thinks the boy is his son and it becomes his mission to give him a proper burial at any cost. First, he needs to find a Rabbi to say a prayer for the dead.

It's an amazing technical feat to have the whole movie sort of 'first person' perspective. Camera almost never leaves from Saul's close-up face, even in very tight spaces. The full frame cinematography adds the trapped, caged surroundings. There are no backstories or music or even tears- there is no time for any of it. Nemes, who served as Bela Tarr's assistant director (on Man from London), knows a thing or two about long takes. Still, it's mighty impressive choreography, especially everything must've been pretty much handheld.

Yet, Saul is deeply moving experience. It doesn't feel like a holocaust ride. There is death everywhere, but Saul's unflinching focus to his salvation against his sealed fate feels very noble and humanistic. Géza Röhrig gives an amazing performance as Saul, the man who seems already dead.

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