Mark Holocaust Remembrance Day by watching Son of Saul, an intense, brutal but enriching film which puts you right in the shoes and soul of a Jewish concentration camp prisoner.
This brilliant film from Hungarian director László Nemes won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2016. It follows Saul Ausländer (a magnificent performance from Géza Röhrig), who is in the Sonderkommando, the cadre of Jewish prisoners forced to assist in the machinery of the Nazi camps. During the course of his ‘work’, he finds the corpse of a boy he is sure is his son, and is determined to save the body from the flames and to find a rabbi to recite the mourner’s Kaddish and give the boy a proper burial. While around him there is a plot by some prisoners to rise up against the camp guards, Saul is dogged in his determination to see his plan through, and to preserve some small shred of humanity for himself and his dead son.
The camera is, throughout the film, glued to Saul’s face, with much of what surrounds him slightly out of focus. This gives an intensity of truth, but without the feeling of voyeurism of some other films about the Holocaust – the audience is aware of the depths of the horror, but they are never sensationalised. We feel the emotions, the gut punches of the reality of what is happening.
A staggering film, visceral, stunning and deeply harrowing – as it should be.