Combustible Celluloid
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With: Géza Röhrig, Levente Molnar, Urs Rechn, Todd Charmont, Sandor Zsoter, Marcin Czarnik, Jerzy Walczak, Uwe Lauer, Christian Harting, Kamil Dobrowlski, Amitai Kedar, Istvan Pion, Juli Jakab, Levente Orban, Attila Fritz
Written by: László Nemes, Clara Royer
Directed by: László Nemes
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent content, and some graphic nudity
Language: Hungarian, German, Yiddish, with English subtitles
Running Time: 107
Date: 12/18/2015

Son of Saul (2015)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Bury Tale

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

You may have seen one too many Holocaust films already, but you haven't seen one like Son of Saul. The debut film of director László Nemes, this one will make you re-think all the others. Son of Saul makes you want to use words like "plunged" and "immersed." Never have we felt so inside this subject, at ground level. The camera follows the protagonist, Saul (a remarkable Géza Röhrig), mainly from behind as he goes about his singular task. (We probably see more of his back than we do his face.) He's part of the "Sonderkommando," in Auschwitz in 1944. In other words, he's a Jew who is working to dispose of all the dead bodies killed by the Nazis, via ovens, open pits, etc.

He discovers the body of a boy he believes to be his son. So with single-minded determination he attempts three nearly impossible tasks: to protect the body from being found and burned, to find a rabbi to help perform a proper funeral, and to dig a hole and bury the deceased. This requires plenty of moving around, without drawing attention to himself. At the same time, the prisoners are launching a plot to blow up the compound, and these plans get distressingly in the way of Saul's personal business. The screenplay by Nemes and Clara Royer doesn't allow much time to stop and explain anything, and I found myself getting a little lost from time to time, mostly over small details. But the visceral experience -- and the emotional one -- are unmistakable, and unbelievably powerful.

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