An impressive directorial debut from Hungarian filmmaker László Nemes, Son of Saul explores a day in the life of a single captive Jew in the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Forced under threat of death to dispose of gas chamber victims, Saul Ausländer (Géza Röhrig) and his fellow Sonderkommando (work detail) are formulating a plot to escape captivity when a horrifying and life-changing discovery offers Saul another way out.
Amongst the all-enveloping horror and turmoil, Nemes threads a touching and heartbreaking narrative of moral survival and solace. Unafraid to showcase the mechanical nature of death inside Auschwitz, Nemes also draws from themes of human strength and adversity to craft this emotionally shattering and chilling character study. Not only that; the accomplished filmmaking is guaranteed to render you speechless – for all the right reasons.
Shot on 40mm lens and in a thin 1.375:1 aspect ratio, Son of Saul’s purposefully narrow field of vision and shallow focus creates an often claustrophobic, suffocating and intense cinematic experience. We view most of the film through handheld medium close-ups of Saul’s face, profile and silhouette; the camera only deviates to another subject on occasion, which allow other technical elements to come to the fore, such as the impeccable sound design and mixing.
Nemes and sound designer Tamás Zányi have composed a layered sensory experience outside the frame that allows the audience to gain a clearer picture of the world around Saul. Rich cinematography from Mátyás Erdély works in tandem with these elements to complete a lush, arresting and deeply disturbing audio-visual journey through one of humankind’s darkest chapters.
The first ever Hungarian feature to win Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes, Son of Saul is also nominated for the same category at the Oscars against France, Denmark, Colombia and Jordan. If it takes out the top prize – which it certainly deserves to do so – it will be the first Hungarian win since 1981’s Mephisto.
Son of Saul is available in Australian cinemas from February 25
Images courtesy of Sony Pictures