Sunday, December 27, 2015

'Son of Saul'

I saw 'Son of Saul' yesterday at the Nuart Theater, in West L.A.

Saul is a sonderkommando at Auschwitz. He's among the trustee prisoners who prepare and clean the gas chambers, removing the bodies and sending them to the ovens, and then shoveling and disposing of the ashes. It's of course the most hellish, unimaginable setting you could think of, and that's part of the captivation of this film. It's shot with a super truncated, up-close focus, primarily on Saul, with the background very blurred, and images often fleeting, which is designed to foster the imagination of the viewer. I'd prefer a little more realism myself, although the method is indeed effective. The film's also fast-paced and the action seemingly busy all the time. Saul is to a point dehumanized by it. But he comes across a boy who just having been murdered, is being prepared for burning. Saul wants to save him. He wants to give him a decent burial, with the Kaddish from a rabbi. He takes the boy as his own son. That becomes his all-encompassing quest, all the time surrounded by the wheels of industrial-scale death. Again, that's what makes the movie riveting.

In any case, I first learned of the film from Joe Morgenstern's review at the Wall Street Journal, "‘Son of Saul’ Review: From Holocaust Hell, Piercing Art." (And see, "‘Son of Saul’: Not About the Survivors.")

Also good is Kenneth Turan, at the Los Angeles Times, "Review: Set in Nazi death camps, 'Son of Saul' is a powerful, immersive vision of hell."

And see an interview with the director László Nemes, from earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival, at France 24, "'Son of Saul' makes waves at Cannes."

The official trailer is here.