OLD SCHOOL REVIEW: Son of Saul
Saul fia, or Son of Saul, is without a doubt one of the most powerful Holocaust dramas to be viewed on the screens.
László Nemes’ directorial debut is a hard-hitting, terrifying film that centers around a Holocaust prisoner who works within the gas chambers. This Hungarian film premiered at the 68th Cannes Film Festival and ended up taking home the Grand Prize.
Son of Saul starts strong and continues to only heighten in intensity as the film progresses. We open on a closeup of Saul Auslander, the prisoner who’s been assigned to clear the bodies from gas chambers. Upon doing that, he discovers the corpse of a young boy who he claims is his son. Nemes, who co-wrote the film with Clara Royers, does an excellent job at unraveling the narrative and keeping us focused on Saul.
Keeping Saul the center of attention is masterfully done, not only through the writing, but through the cinematography. Matyas Erdely does a phenomenal job at following around Saul, telling his story and showing the audience only what he sees. The film has a very shallow focus, which helps show the state of mind that Saul is in most of the time, as well as keeping the audience completely focused on Saul. Son of Saul was shot on 35mm stock film, making the film rich with color (mostly greens and yellows) and a decent amount of deep shadows. The films cinematography is some of the best work of the year.
The film has very little dialogue, which makes the audience have to rely heavily on visuals and audio. The film has no score which makes for a lot of horrifying moments, especially when Saul is working in the chambers and all that is heard are the screams of dying victims.
The film has very, very, very strong performances. Geza Rohrig is Saul Auslander. His chilling and raw performance is one that stays with you once you’ve left the theater. Though the backstory of Auslander is never fully given, Nemes does a nice job at dropping clues which allows for the film to continue forward. Rohrig is breathtakingly on-point with his performance at the beginning of the film. The continuing of the story, and growing of tension is shown through his expressions and hopefully will get recognition come award season.
This film, almost shot like a documentary, is one of the best hands down. It tells a raw, grisly story from a point of view that’s never really been touched upon. Son of Saul’s long takes will have you squirming in your seat due to the uncomfortableness of the situation, wishing that there’d be a cut. It’ll be a film that is talked about for some time, not just because of the technical accomplishments, but because of how heart-breakingly, raw, and graphic, it is.
My Personal Rating: 10/10