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Son of Saul Review

The Holocaust is a point in history that’s been covered many times in film. Films like Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, buy cialis 1994), sildenafil Sophie’s Choice (Alan J. Pakula, shop 1983), and The Pianist (Roman Polanski, 2002) have made the Holocaust such a frequent topic that you start to question why we need another one. Why should we keep making movies about a time in history that’s so painful to watch when many films have not only conveyed what happened in those concentration camps, but even did it exceptionally well? In László Nemes’s directorial debut titled “Son of Saul”, he not only gives us a reason to keep discussing these gruesome events. He constructs a unique form of storytelling that’s never been done in any other Holocaust film.

The film takes place entirely from the point of view of its main character Saul (Géza Röhrig), a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp and member of the Sonderkommando’s. Saul, along with many other prisoners, is forced to aid in the slayings of gas chamber victims as well as the clean-up from the aftermath. Our first glimpse into Saul’s abominable job is in the very first scene. Saul is escorting a new group of prisoners who are to be executed in the chambers. As we hear the screams while people are suffocating, the camera observes Saul’s stone cold face like it happens every day.

It’s in this first scene where we find Nemes and cinematographer Mátyás Erdély’s visual method for “Son of Saul.” No matter what the action is, the camera nearly always stays on Saul at a close-up. These long take sequences follow Saul wherever he goes on hand-held cameras while enclosing the audience from his surroundings. Nemes’s entire visual style for “Son of Saul is about isolation. For many scenes, the focus is so shallow to the point where backgrounds are completely blurred, and the movie was filmed in the Academy ratio (4:3) which further isolates Saul’s surroundings by placing the frame in a square box with black bars on the sides.

As Screen International writer Johnathan Romney states, “The effect is to show Saul utterly immersed in his world and yet isolated from it.” The frightening sound design, with its amplified screams and gunshots, acts as that reminder of the atrocities that are happening within the concentration camp setting. The camera is all about Saul and his feelings. His goal in the story is to give his deceased son, who was found by Saul among the piles of corpses, a proper burial with a rabbi. When the movie presents a scene where Saul is pushing his way through a group of prisoners who’re about to be killed in burning pits, the cameras isolation reminds us that the focus is on Saul looking for a rabbi to give his son a proper ritual.

Laszlo Nemes’ approach to storytelling in “Son of Saul” pulls the audience right into the grim heart of Nazi concentration camps like no film ever has. By allowing us to follow one person in the story, the film creates a personal attachment to Saul as his journey becomes linked to the audience. We feel everything that is happening to Saul and his environments to the point where it becomes real in our minds. We’re experiencing the worst that humanity has to offer so that we don’t make the same mistakes.

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