Director: László Nemes
Starring: Géza Röhrig, Levente Molnár, Urs Rechn
Running Time: 107mins
Son of Saul is a harrowing and hard to watch film, placing you right into the middle of the Holocaust. Following the plight of Sonderkommando Saul Auslander as he goes about his Nazi-enforced work; herding his own people into the gas chambers, carrying corpses away, scrubbing bloody floors and burning bodies. On finding a young boy amongst the bodies Saul does everything he can to try to give this boy a proper funeral. What we then get is a weaving of Saul’s efforts alongside the effort of the other captive workers in their attempts to plan and escape the work camp.
Saul’s idealism in trying to do something respectful is completely out of place in this situation but he is a man who is not to be dissuaded from his personal mission. A number of run-ins with Oberkapo (work team captains) and German officers heighten the tension even more as he puts everything else below his own priorities.
László Nemes’ choice of using hand held cameras and eschewing widescreen allow for a narrow focus on the main protagonist, following him closely but never quite showing the whole experience, instead preferring to keep the majority of the atrocities just out of shot. This creates an amazing atmosphere, slightly disorienting at first, but developing into a more personal vision of the effects and situations on show.
First time actor Géza Röhrig takes the weight on his shoulders as Saul and he does exceedingly well, first as the obedient worker then as the man on a mission. Willing to do anything to complete his chosen task even putting his own life, and others, at risk.
Son of Saul is horrific and amazing, harrowing but compelling. It is a visual experience that has been extremely well created.