So I’ve got a real challenge here. How do I convince anyone to go out and see yet another movie set during the Holocaust? Especially one that’s set in Auschwitz. In 1944. And it’s brutal, horrific, graphic, and numbing?
Simple. Just tell them how brilliant it is.
The debut film from Hungarian director/writer László Nemes, Son of Saul, is not an easy watch. I had to prepare myself for the viewing. But, once I was ready, I experienced a visual and emotional journey unlike anything I’d ever witnessed on film. Nemes’ style and narrative structure for this film is absolutely staggering, for what he shows and what he doesn’t show—and yet all it still tells.
I refuse to tell you too much, because I insist that, if you love cinema, if you love any kind of filmmaking with a sense of space and point of view and style and narrative skill, you must see Son of Saul and I don’t want to ruin the experience for you.
But, then again, there is the subject matter. All the cinematic style and skill aside, Nemes tells an incredibly personal story set against the most horrific backdrop in human history—and he does it with such intimacy yet distance, it’s impossible for me to describe. There is no other way than to experience this film for yourself—and you will feel it in your bones, if you do—and the fact that there is such art here mixed with such story, it’s truly an epic achievement.
And, on top of all of that, there’s the performance of Hungarian actor Geza Rohrig, which is one of the most haunting and intense performances you will see all year, if ever. His face carries so much of this film, and, with it, our emotions. It is a performance that stays with you.
As does this film. I know a brutal Holocaust movie isn’t for everyone—and, again, I do need to emphasize the graphic, intense nature of this film—but, please hear me when I say this: Son of Saul needs to be seen, both for its artistry and for its chillingly emotional storytelling. There is no other film this year like it.