Opening 10 Mar 2016
Son of Saul begins in chaos with sounds of screaming officers and images of people being forced to move. Saul Auslander (Rohig) is a Hungarian Jew forced to work in the extermination factory, taking corpses to the ovens and then disposing of the ashes. The moment Saul hears that a young boy has survived the gas chamber, he is spiritually awakened and his life has a purpose. The Nazis kill the boy and demand an autopsy. Something snaps deep inside Saul and convinces him that the boy deserves a decent burial. Saul believes this boy is his son and represents something very spiritual to him. Saul is willing to risk everything to make sure the burial happens.
Presenting the main character as focal point gives the film a tunnel vision effect. All the terrible events lurk in the corners of the main character’s mind as it does with the viewer. Director Nemes gives us a very realistic view of someone who is dealing with this situation under a state of shock. Our minds start to deny what we are seeing and we can relate to Saul and his excoriating circumstances. The sound is very important; it is usually loud and displeasing. There is never a moment of peacefulness and the characters never have the luxury of having space for themselves. Nemes, who is a young 38 years old, said, “We cannot forget our past. Right now is a crucial time in our history since most of the people who lived through the holocaust are either dead or soon will be gone. Since we did not go through the experience or have someone there to tell us what happened, we will lose sight of what must it have been like to survive a concentration camp like Auschwitz.” Some of the source material came from manuscripts called the Scrolls of Auschwitz, which he came across some ten years ago and which moved him so much that he had to make this film. Son of Saul won the grand prize this year at the Cannes Film Festival and stands a good chance of winning an Oscar. (Shelly Schoeneshoefer)