‘Son Of Saul’ has gotten a lot of accolades: The Grand prix at Cannes, The Academy and Golden Globe awards for Best Foreign Film. But I thought it would be a difficult one to watch. Set in Auschwitz concentration camp, it tells the story of a member of Sonderkommando, the special forces made up of Jewish men whose executions are delayed. In exchange, they have to serve, mostly by shepherding Jewish people to the gas chambers. So as you can see, this ain’t no Mary Poppins.
I finally saw the film today – I don’t know what possessed me to start watching it – and it is truly a powerful film: one that would stay with you and linger. And I was right as it reads as the worst of worse horror movies. There were numerous times when I covered my eyes because I just couldn’t bare to see what was happening on screen – Director Laszlo Nemes brings you right to the heart of the action – right by the gas chambers as people entered, inside the same gas chambers as his protagonist Saul (Geza Rohrig) helps in sweeping the bodies. When Saul chances upon the body of a boy – Saul claims that it is his son – he goes to all lengths to give it a proper Jewish burial, searching for a rabbi. Saul has such a stoic demeanor that we never get to what he is truly thinking – this situation, this place has hardened him too much. Rohrig gives a performance that will cut you – he feels defeated but head strong in making this happen. He struggles with this amidst dealing and participating in a growing mutiny with some of the other members of the commando.
Whether they succeed doesn’t really matter. Whether he is able to give his son a burial doesn’t really matter. What matters here is we get to experience what is like ot be there, in those concentration camps. A lot of times the films feel claustrophobic – but we only get to feel a hundredth of how it feels to be there. Seeing this movie is an experience, and I don’t really know if I could ever see this movie again. But make mo mistake, you will come out of it changed.