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. While the Sonderkommando is to be liquidated at any moment, Saul turns away of the living and their plans of rebellion to save the remains of a son he never took care of when he was still alive.Written by
This movie starts completely out of focus - literally. The viewer sees only vague shapes moving around. Is this a technical error or an experiment gone wrong? Nothing of the kind. After a while, the face of lead character Saul Auslander moves close to the camera - and into focus.
And it stays this way. In the first few minutes, the camera stays within a range of 50 centimeters from Saul's face. Or I should say: Saul's head - because sometimes we see only the side or the back of his head.
The effect of this style of filming is no less than spectacular. All kinds of things are happening around Saul. Horrible things, we soon learn. But we never get to see them close by. We only see shapes, out of focus, at the extreme fringes of the screen, and we hear the sounds. And we keep seeing his face, in focus. He moves around, works, does things, and all the while all we see is his face.
Soon we understand where he is: in a Nazi concentration camp. Saul belongs to a Sonderkommando, a group of Jews who are temporarily spared from death to do the labour the Germans don't want to do. In the midst of the terrible atrocities, it becomes his mission to bury a boy he believes is his son.
This film is unique in showing the concentration camp for what is is: hell on earth. Naked dead bodies being dragged around, desperate people being shot indiscriminately, complete absence of anything humanity stands for. It is exactly this total loss of dignity that drives Saul in his hopeless quest for a way to organize a proper burial for the dead boy.
Son of Saul is the complete antithesis of that other monumental Holocaust movie: Schindler's List. While Spielberg's film is made according to all the rules of good film making, Son of Saul is a claustrophobic trip, without any possible concession to commercial appeal. The dialogue is often hardly comprehensible, spoken in three languages, sometimes not louder than a whisper. Not all the acts and events are quite clear, and only after a while you understand what exactly drives Saul.
This is a unique, hard-hitting movie experience. When you go see it, don't expect a well-rounded story with heroes and villains and a nice ending. But expect to be swept away.
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