” Good movies summon up worlds. “Son of Saul,” a great movie and a debut feature by László Nemes, summons up a world we may think we know from a visual perspective we’ve never encountered—the willed tunnel vision of a Jewish worker in a Nazi death camp”, – The Wall Street Journal.
In October 1944, Saul Ausländer (Géza Röhrig), a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz works as a Sonderkommando member, burning the dead. One day, he finds the body of a boy he takes for his son. He tries to salvage the body from the flames, and find a rabbi to arrange a clandestine burial. Meanwhile other members of the Sonderkommando learn about their impending extermination, rise up and destroy the crematorium. Saul keeps focused on his own plan to pay the last honours to a son he never could take care of before.
“Son of Saul,” the favorite to win the best foreign language film at the Academy Awards, is a deliberate rejection of less severe Holocaust films. It’s a harrowing depiction of concentration camps’ machinery in action”,”The Time Of Israel wrote.
” My interest originally started when I read for the first time the so-called Scrolls of Auschwitz”,- said in the intervew director László Nemes,” the writings of the “Sonderkommando” members, these prisoners who as you know where isolated from the rest of the camp and forced to be in the crematorium and erase the traces of the extermination. These people actually took notes in captivity about their everyday lives, a lot of them did, and wrote down what was supposed to be a testimony, not only of their existence, but more importantly of the extermination. They thought that nobody would know after all the Jews are destroyed what happened, so they wanted to take notes and they did. These notes were put into the ground and some of them were found after the war. So that was why I wanted to make the film within the Sonderkommando, but the memory of the Holocaust, I live with it since my childhood. It was something that was communicated to me by my mother mainly, and I wanted to make a film on that.”
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 91% approval rating based on reviews from 43 critics, with an average rating of 8.4 out of 10. The site’s critical consensus reads, “Grimly intense yet thoroughly rewarding, Son of Saul offers an unforgettable viewing experience – and establishes director László Nemes as a talent to watch.”
Claude Lanzmann, director of the documentary Shoah, gave the film high praises, stating that “it’s a very new film, very original, very unusual. It’s a film that gives a very real sense of what it was like to be in the Sonderkommando. It’s not at all melodramatic. It’s done with a very great modesty. Philosopher Georges Didi-Huberman also praised the film, and he wrote a 25-page open letter to Nemes, which opened with “Your film, ‘Son of Saul,’ is a monster. A necessary, coherent, beneficial, innocent monster.”
The film premiered at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Grand Prix. It has also been selected to be shown in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.
Writing for The Film Stage, Giovanni Marchini Camia gave the film an A rating, and called it “a towering landmark for filmic fictionalizations of the Holocaust”