Son of Saul Review
Son of Saul is a 2015 Hungarian drama film directed by Laszlo Nemes and starring Geza Rohrig. The film won Grand Prix at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and it is a flawed, but interesting experience.
Saul Auslander is a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner whose job is to bury the dead in the year of 1944. He takes a boy for his son and takes it upon himself to salvage a boy’s body and have a proper burial. The plot itself is the main reason why I had problems with this film. It is always inconsistent and too mysterious to the point of a frustration. It works as a whole, but we never get to understand why that task of burying a boy’s body is so important to him. And some scenes were a bit too ambiguous and not in a good way.
However, the reason why the movie still works to a large degree is definitely the impact it leaves on the audience. I felt uncomfortable throughout the whole running time as the film possesses such a strong feeling of endless chaos and utter despair. It also transports you to its period so superbly and as if you are actually there and rarely have I felt that in a movie which is why Son of Saul succeeds as a World War II film. It is always so quick in its pace and something always happens and you are the witness of the endless horrors surrounding the main character and he is your guide.
Yes, that cinematography choice truly is interesting. It tells you the story from the perspective of the protagonist by letting you follow him throughout the whole film with the camera emphasis on his face and having his both sides blurred. That was done for better and for worse as it can get frustrating and makes the viewing somewhat difficult, but it is also better as is thus blurs all the nudity and violence which I am never a fan of and for that I was grateful. But overall I liked that approach and no matter how annoying it can sometimes get, it is still an artistic choice that helps a movie a lot and lets you see the emotion on the character’s face more clearly and produces some unforgettable scenes.
The characterization is not that good as you never meet these characters and even the leading character is not particularly well developed. But you still root for him from beginning to end and the character work is expectedly weaker because of the nature of the film.
Some scenes annoyed me here such as the scene with Saul and the girl which is not just ambiguous, but you never know what is going on exactly. Also, the whole movie has that approach with fast pacing and something always happening, but with no true developments occurring, except in the third act. But it still has many memorable scenes such as the ending which is so emotional and very satisfying and also so well realized and the beginning is extremely good and hooks you in instantly. There are definitely many moments here that are priceless and the film produces that uncomfortable feeling in such a good way and it lasts from start to finish which is why this is a successful experiment.
Son of Saul is such a well directed and acted movie with Laszlo Nemes and Geha Rohrig both being incredibly good in their roles. The movie also looks good as it is so well shot. It is realistic and dark as well and transports you the this period so well. It is also quite emotional, especially near the end, and it is a very well edited and paced movie that is never dull or too rushed despite its fast pace which seems natural rather than forced. It is a serious and memorable movie that is flawed in its execution, but is still so authentic and leaves such a strong impression.