Son of Saul
Most people can recall the horror, the anger and the utter disgust that they felt when learning about the atrocities committed in the Nazi concentration and extermination camps. Son of Saul brings that nightmare terrifyingly to life. It presents the story of Saul, a Jewish prisoner and labourer at one such camp (it’s never specifically named, but Auschwitz is a safe bet) who is determined to carry out a proper burial for a young boy whose body he saves from incineration. As plots go, this promises to be one of the more poignant even before the opening shot.
For the most part, the story is told in tight close-ups of lead actor Géza Röhrig’s face, allowing the audience ample opportunity to appreciate the minute ticks and strains of emotion that make his performance such a compelling one. Around him, over his shoulders and just out of the frame, the terror unfolds at startling proximity. “Heavy threat”, warns the age certification, and they’re not kidding. Though little is shown explicitly, there can be no doubting the inferences from the visual clues. Even from the start, the film refuses to pull punches, and it’s this fearless drive to be genuine that really cuts to the heart of what makes Son of Saul so effective.
Aided by truly exceptional sound design, this film doesn’t need a musical score to guide the emotions of its viewers, or expositional dialogue to explain what’s going on. What the audience hears, every sound effect and line of script, is orchestrated with precision. Every gun shot, every scream of fear or sob of sorrow, every beat of sheer silence is measured and dealt in a way that makes Son of Saul feel truly immersive, in the worst and most impressive way. There’s little to criticise. It’s certainly disturbing, and so it should be. It’s not light or fun in the slightest; to attempt any levity would feel like a betrayal. Respectful, well-executed and incredibly moving, it is sure to leave audiences profoundly affected.
Son of Saul is released nationwide on 29th April 2016.
Watch the trailer for Son of Saul here: