Two days in the life of Saul Auslander, Hungarian prisoner working as a member of the Sonderkommando at one of the Auschwitz Crematoriums who, to bury the corpse of a boy he takes for his son, tries to carry out his impossible deed: salvage the body and find a rabbi to bury it.
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It's a fine and credible film. The hardened mentality and conveyor belt, machine-like brutality brought to mind what we do to billions of animals each month for no better reason than satisfying our taste buds.
As searing and singular an experience as watching Son of Saul is, it was nevertheless not the film I was expecting. While it's true, as much of its press emphasizes, that it offers a deliberately, intimately excruciating over-the-shoulder perspective on the gruesome grind of being a cog in a death machine, this aspect of the film becomes secondary to its function as a parable about the survival of the Jewish soul.
This film is hard to watch, and not because it is a Holocaust film. The jerkiness and instability isn't just the camerawork. The character, motivation, it all seems contrived. And it definitely adds nothing to the Holocaust narrative.
While I understand the complaints, I have a hard time mustering disgust for the semiotics of this visual tactic. Despite limited visual access to the horrors of the Holocaust, I nonetheless felt their weight: the tactic doesn't unduly softens the tragedy. What it does do, however, is force Saul to shoulder the emotional and thematic weight of the film, and it's here that it failed to connect with me as a viewer.
It started brilliantly... But I felt it losing some of its steam throughout, picking up again towards the end. Nemes found a disturbing niche within WWII events and delivered a powerful and morbid story, but I think I need a second viewing to keep better track of the secondary characters and storylines.
Much like 'Victoria', a film that thrives on its high-concept premise; the claustrophobic camera lock on the protagonist accents the blurred backdrop of a PoW camp. In what it intends, it succeeds admirably. It sounds facetious to ask whether or not we need another film about the Holocaust. Arguably, it would be more compelling to articulate fascist elements in contemporary culture. A good film nonetheless.
It definitely offers a new vision of a concentration camp, taking us directly into it and making us feel trapped and claustrophobic (brilliant cinematography!). The downside was that I'm personally sick and tired of films depicting Auschwitz and the horror thousands of people went through. It's an impressive and ambitious debut film by Nemes though, with a marvellous performance by Rohrig.
It’s a golden debut for Mr. Nemes, who engendered a new visual and narrative perspective to sturdily relaunch the Holocaust theme. One thing I can assure you: this film is like nothing you have seen before.