Writer/Director Lάzlό Nemes’ Son of Saul is a grim portrait of man’s inhumanity to man, taking viewers into the inner workings of a Polish death camp in 1944.
Here, the most able-bodied Jews are forced to clean the gas chambers, strip valuables from the clothes, burn the corpses and shovel the ashes into the nearby river. Things you’d never want to realize took place happen around Hungarian Jew Saul Ausländer (Gėza Röhrig), as Cinematographer Mάtyάs Erdėly keeps his angular face in close-up.
In an effort to have some degree of moral focus, Saul tries to give a Jewish burial to a young boy, who, somehow, survived the gas chamber only to be suffocated by a doctor.
The problem is that Saul’s moral compass turns to obsession as he claims the boy is his son and lets his delusion betray the living men, who are attempting to escape the prison.
The ultimate failure of Saul to help both the living and the dead left me feeling sick, but perhaps that’s what Nemes intended.
If you’re looking for entertainment, avoid Son of Saul like the moral plague the Nazis created. Still, as a powerful first effort, I give it a 4 out of 5.